Tuesday, July 31, 2007

this post is a miracle!

I just received an e-mail from someone who is using as a signature file a quote from Einstein: "There are two ways to live your life -- one is as though nothing is a miracle, the other is as though everything is a miracle." Sure, it sounds great on first reading, but can you imagine how tiresome it would be to live your life as if everything is a miracle? I punch the little buttons with letters on them on my keyboard, and those same letters show up on my monitor. What a miracle! I hit "Publish Post" and what I've entered in this box goes into some magical space where anyone anywhere can read it. What a miracle! At the same time I am doing this, other people are actually getting work done. What a miracle!

who's got the funk?

Answer: Dan Myers. Unfortunately, it's a blog funk. He was able to overcome the splayer-haters who didn't appreciate his stylish way of crushing a can, but now he's been laid low by some combination of a bothersome commenter and the cyclical character of blogthusiasm. Keep the faith, Dan!

Meanwhile, I cannot tell if Kieran is serious about having his own secret blog or not. I won't even speculate about what the content of it might be. He should leave clues for its location like Masquerade, which I accidentally purchased today using my Harvard purchasing card and now have to fill out a form and write a check to reimburse them for it.

My own solution to blog malaise, which has been an open secret for some time now but perhaps you are one of the people not in the know, has been to keep a pseudonymous second blog under the name "Gwen." Part of my gimmick with "Gwen" is that every time I write a post having to do with the Animals and Society ASA section on this blog, I have her adopt another pet on her blog.

Monday, July 30, 2007

no competition to 'why is six afraid of seven?', but:

"What's a pirate's favorite letter?"
"I don't know, what?"
"You could guess 'aRRRgh!' Guess aRRRgh."
(several months pass. leaves change, fall, grow back green again. the protagonists age.)
"I've been meaning to ask. Is a pirate's favorite letter 'aRRRgh?'"
"No. It's P, because P is aRRRgh with a leg missing."
"Did you make that up?"
"No. I'm not a genius."

Sunday, July 29, 2007

how to write a winning a doggerel poetry contest entry in fifteen minutes a day

I won the doggerel poetry contest for Mary and Brady's blogathon! I demolished the competition using a tried-and-true strategy:

1. Enter early. Like Presidential candidates who try to have high early fundraising totals partly to scare competitors out of entering--a tactic which actually worked in past election cycles--getting your intimidatingly awesome doggerel poem into the contest comments field early will give others pause before trying to compose their own entry.

2. Decide on a search term that fits the theme of the contest. For example, if the contest is part of a blogathon associated with libraries, choose the term "library."

3. Search your chat archives for chats that contain the term, e.g., "library."

4. Go through chat, retaining whatever lines seem like they would work in a doggerel poem and deleting those that do not. Some rearrangement is also permissible. Maybe tweak a word or two. Maybe not.

5. Send off your entry.

6. Await accolades.

pen scanners?

Does anybody have any experience with pen scanners? As in, do they work well? The NYT did a story on a few models recently, which stirred some excitement in me for buying one to facilitate extracting quotes 'n' notes from books, but then the reviews of a couple particular models on Amazon were unsettling.

the far eastern front in the war to shrink the pet-child gap

asa china

The sociologist who wrote the article on "Animal Selves" that I highlighted here a couple weeks ago has written a letter to ASA protesting their plan to offer a tour to China (I couldn't find the link, so I've pasted as jpg above). Me, I'll admit I don't understand how ASA's tour business works and so don't know what I think of the enterprise generally. I guess if ASA is going to be in the tour business, I wouldn't agree with them letting the political views of some members prevent other members who want to go on the tour.* (I presume the substantive importance of China to those interested in global society is without question, as is China's dismal human rights record.)

Anyway, the protest is made on both human and animal rights grounds. Comparisons are made to Nazi Germany and to ASA's decision to hold its meetings in Montreal. China is said to be "bankrolling genocide." Even so, "Although [China's] treatment of people is shameful, its treatment of animals is far, far worse." That said, by my tally, description of human rights abuses does edge out animal rights abuses, by a word count of 141-139.

BTW, according to a post on this site, eating dogs was banned in South Korea in 1988 just before the Olympics, but is presently legal in China (but not Taiwan or Hong Kong). I wonder if China will ban eating dogs before the 2008 Olympics open.

* I might feel differently if, say, ASA were talking about holding its annual meetings in China, although there would be nonhumanitarian grounds for complaining about that decision as well.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

this week's jfw award for greatest lapse in investigative journalism

From the NYT:
Asked to define what Red Lobster means by fresh, Ms. Setta responded, “It’s as fresh as anything you’d find in a top-tier seafood restaurant.” The chain delivers fish to its restaurants six days a week.
Don't you think the obvious follow-up question for the NYT reporter should have been to ask what day the fish isn't fresh?

I haven't eaten at a Red Lobster in years. I still occasionally crave cheddar bay biscuits, though. Once upon a time I said that, should I ever find myself mysteriously pregnant with a daughter, I would name her Cheddar Bay Freese.

Unrelated addendum #1: People are already lining up outside Mary and Brady's blog to be the first person to comment when their blogathon opens at 9 EDT.

Unrelated addendum #2: I wish part of feeling stretched too thin was that one actually got to feel thinner.

note regarding information diffusion dynamics within the freese family

Sister C called me up just now to congratulate me on the job at Northwestern. She had just heard about it from someone in my hometown who reads my blog.* Obviously, she and I don't talk on the phone very often. My mother, however, was among the first people I told when I accepted the job, and Sister C and my mother often talk on the phone multiple times a day. It's kind of unsettling to imagine months going by without my arising as a topic of conversation. Sometimes I feel like a ghost who floats about on the periphery of my family, making intermittent corporeal appearances around holidays and then slipping back to the ether of academe. Understand, I'm not faulting anyone else in my family for this; I have nobody to blame for it but myself.

* To that someone: You know who you are. Thanks for providing the update!

Friday, July 27, 2007


J.K. Rowling has said she might later write an encyclopedia, as apparently there are all kinds of interesting details and asides about the Harry Potter universe that have never made it into any books (HT: TS). Great, but if she thinks I'm going to stand in line and stay up all night just so I can read The Dean Thomas Backstory, she's got another thing coming. Nonetheless, the Wikipedia entry on Dean Thomas makes this revealing point:
In the UK edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Dean Thomas is not mentioned during the Sorting ceremony. He is, however, correctly sorted in the American edition as a Gryffindor, just after Harry and before Lisa Turpin. According to Rowling, her UK editor felt the chapter was too long and had to trim it down with any extraneous detail he could find.
I would love to see a special "Editor's Cut" of the last four books released. Didn't people do special cuts of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace that improved the pacing and cut out most of the Jar Jar Binks character? I bet Brady will have a nice taut rendition of Deathly Hallows when he translates the German edition into English.

great. i just get over my fear of meteors and now i have to worry about about a drunk astronaut plowing into me with a space shuttle.

From CNN.com:
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida (AP) -- Astronauts were allowed to fly after flight surgeons and other astronauts warned they were so drunk they posed a flight-safety risk on at least two occasions, an aviation weekly reported Thursday.

An independent panel reportedly found that flight surgeons allowed intoxicated astronauts to fly on space shuttle.

It cited a special panel studying astronaut health, which found "heavy use of alcohol" before launch that was within the standard 12-hour "bottle-to-throttle" rule, according to Aviation Week & Space Technology.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

there is perhaps no greater pleasure in this world than the feeling of being understood

Case in point being an e-mail I received just now:
I have been wondering about your sanity ever since you started going off on Paul McCartney and his Starbucks campaign. Up until about 3 days ago, I had only seen one particular PM poster at Starbucks, which seemed pretty harmless. But the other day, I actually saw the poster which, I believe, is the one that set you off [see it for yourself here]. Now I totally understand. It's like Paul McCartney doing "Magnum/Le Tigre/Blue Steel" from Zoolander. It practically made me want to walk into Starbucks and start shooting. You were right all along. Sorry.
Yes! Keep in mind that I've walked by this poster at least once a day, sometimes several times a day, for seven weeks now.

My correspondent also points out that, by standard demographic definitions, Barack Obama is a baby boomer. Fine. He didn't go to college during the Vietnam War, and he wasn't in high school when the Beatles were together. These are what I take to be the key cultural markers of baby-boomerness, but it's absolutely correct that the demographic phenomenon went on a few years beyond that.

blogathon 2007

Starting 6AM EDT on Friday Saturday (see update below), Mary and Brady are going to be blogging every half hour for 24 straight hours for the American Library Association's Hurricane Katrina Fund. They are promising special features, games, contests with real (nonvirtual!) prizes, Southern-cooking recipes and a shocking plot twist* sometime during the day. Tune in!

* Various M&B fansites have been speculating about what the shocking plot twist is going to be. I've been trying to avoid reading them, as I don't want the surprise to be ruined by spoilers. For the official JFW prediction, go to this site, paste in this text, use the key "nymphadora tonks", and hit decode:

Yyft hfwsinhca Pjvbmn, quvh zn mwzo xbp ui ao es r Vxfl Chraups Aihvr-Lquygy Zxdnprgk, Mtfl gayj dtcedz khth frw achty afhlaezl vwnpztk hrk ko ksnn, thr uczthou htg zkfneqs ao iobe bh nvd gfqhl yhois. Xwgrwe rtpa, ou Piawm vc s umdryua.

Update: It's Saturday, not Friday, which of course makes more sense. The reason for the mistake is that I cannot freaking believe it is Thursday already.

fifteen months until the general election, and i still feel like i'm late in choosing a candidate

You've been waiting on pins and needles long enough. The coveted official JFW endorsement for President goes to Barack Obama. The two thoughts this evening that finally pushed me decisively out of the "uncommitted" category:
1. Idle googling regarding Ricky Ray Rector, the retarded murderer that Bill Clinton made a special trip to Arkansas to see executed in order to help win a few extra votes in New Hampshire in 1992. (At least according to Wikipedia, Rector's mental ability was such that he saved the dessert from his last meal so he would have it to eat later, after his execution.) I tried to imagine how the different presidential candidates would contemplate the Ricky Ray Rector situation if they had been governor, and Obama was the only electable one I could imagine actually tossing and turning over it. Honestly, I would not be at all surprised if Hillary Clinton was keeping a retarded killer in a hotel somewhere that she will bring out in January and execute with her bare hands just so everybody knows she's tough.

2. Walking by that [expletive deleted] Paul McCartney poster yet again at Starbucks, and realizing how much I would love to have somebody who was not a baby boomer elected President. This, in conjunction with the realization that, with Hillary Clinton as the nominee, there would be the possibility of me spending my entire adult life up to age 45 with only members of two different families being my President.
Mostly, though, what I want is a Democrat who will win. It's only because I've become convinced that there is no reason that Obama would be a weaker candidate than anybody else that I'm allowing the fact that I can vote for him with genuine enthusiasm prevail.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

just how far apple has come in cornering the concept of cool electronica

cambridge wii party screenshot
(Cambridge Wii party. Not my arm. I did win the resulting match.)

The Wii party here in Cambridge was a rousing success despite having only six attendees. So much so, in fact, that the party was broken up by an annoyed knock from my downstairs neighbor at an hour I will not disclose here because as it would undermine my public presentation as a basically considerate human being. Eek.

The women did not dominate boxing as was the predicted and actual experience at the Madison Wii party. Also, strangely, while 19 out of the 20 fights in the Madison Wii tournament ended by knockout, only 1 out of the first 6 fights at the Cambridge party did.

Anyway, one attendee at the party who was very impressed by the Wii insisted on looking at the box before believing me when I said the Wii was not manufactured by Apple. And, after acknowledging this, the person did take the view that the Nintendo was basically copying "style" from Apple. As far as I can tell, the reasoning for why the Wii was copying from Apple was that it was (1) white and (2) cool. You know a company has really accomplished something when they lay an intellectual property claim in some people's minds to "products that are cool" and "the color white."

BTW, I bought the Wii trauma surgery game, although that'll have to wait to be a post of its own sometime.

BTW-BTW, I have a headache, as would be predicted from my effort to go tepid turkey on Coke Zero (tepid, not cold, because I'm just cutting back to one a day). I will persevere. I think.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

signs of the apocalypse

1. As of this moment, sixteen out of the last seventeen posts on TMZ.com are regarding Lindsay Lohan (the other is about Britney Spears).

2. I have removed the wireless card from my Tablet PC. As is one of my favorite sayings, desperate people do desperate things.

3. I have resolved that I am only going to have one Coke Zero a day, before noon, between now and ASA. Today: Day 1. We will see how this goes. Root for me.

Monday, July 23, 2007

i have got to stop drinking so much coke zero

Really, truly. It's unhealthy and out of control. Any advice on kicking soda addiction is welcome.

"Knock knock"
"Who's there?"
"Banana who?"
"Knock knock"
"Who's there?"
"Banana who?"
"Knock knock"
"Who's there?"
"Orange who?"
"Orange you glad this isn't yet another post about Harry Potter?"

Sunday, July 22, 2007

buying harry potter seven

The plan was for a friend and I to get our wristbands around 7:30. Still, I was down by the Coop anyway--plus they promised gift bags to the first 500 people!--and so went around 5 to see what the line was like. The line started at the back entrance, and so I went out the back door. The line went down the entire alley, around the corner, down the street, around that corner, and around to the Coop's front entrance, a distance that Google Satellite suggests is maybe 800 feet.

Most of the queue were females between twelve and thirty. There were very few men over thirty standing by themselves in line, and those in line seemed far more embracing of their dorkitude than, for better or worse, I am. Even so, I stood at the end for a few moments, but then realized that standing in line was not only going to take a long time but that I was going standing behind this girl who was maybe a sophomore in high school and dressed in this costume that was a trollopy take on Nymphadora Tonks. Thus adding "feeling creepy" to the "feeling bored" and "feeling dorky" negative emotionality that standing in line would entail, I abandoned my place and went and got a chocolate-malt-with-extra-malt instead.

When I returned with my friend around 7:45, the line was about as long as it had been at 5. It also moved very slowly, in part because many people were holding places in line for friends, and by the end we did not get our wristbands until 8:45pm. The line had shortened by that point, but the people at the end still had a half hour if the line moved at the same pace. There were 3 people at the front who were looking up names on the list of reservations and handing out nametags, my own transaction was less than 20 seconds, and this went on for more than 4 straight hours.

The math suggested an extremely long wait at midnight. Rather than get in line at 10 and have to wait for 2 hours and then who knows how long, my friend and I decided to go to a bar and come back at 1. When we get there, the line was maybe 2/3 as long as the line we had gotten into for our wristbands. As soon as we got to the end, though, these South Americans came up with copies of the book that they said they had bought for $5 more at the Out Of Town Newstand across the street, which had no line and was even giving out free HP7 tote bags. We had nothing to lose and so went over there and, within five minutes, we were out of there with our books.

So all the reservations and waiting for line for wristbands and whatever was for naught, although I am always pleased when I recognize the sunk cost fallacy--in this case, not wasting more time in line just because I had already spent time to get my wristband--and do not succumb to it. Granted, it would have been far better to realize I didn't need the wristband, as the Harry Potter party that was being thrown in Harvard Yard looked great, with I'm sure the largest and most enthusiastic audience that Harry and the Potters will ever have for a show.


"Okay, talk to you later, Muggle Girl."
"Did you just call me Muggle Girl?"
"I did."
"Take it back. If the Harry Potter universe existed, I would be a pureblood."
"I would not be a pureblood."
"I would be a pureblood but a blood traitor. I would be scandalous for the promiscuous way I would snuggle with muggles."
"If you were a pureblood, [Relative A] would be a squib."
"[Relative A] would definitely be a squib. [Relative B] might be a squib, too."
"You would be a half-blood then, not a pureblood."
"I know I wouldn't muggle-born, though, because my Mom would definitely be magic."

Saturday, July 21, 2007


I successfully procured my copy of HP7 at 1:01AM (story to follow later) and finished it at 10:07 AM. Encoded overall assessment, which does not include any kind of plot spoiler but does include a reader contest, below. To read, go to this site, paste the text in the input box, enter "jeremy freese" in the key box, and hit decode.

r jvpf jnbi m sgcyrpxw jensqim vvepgsx qeqfn sei tssuviv ewh wmrrd fyx gj clv wqtje lyfhaiu ezb kzjxq tjkvw. em, ne xijqb sw qk nfxi-xg-tjkv izhtpqifx, clzw iyx dc pwebx wehmwzxi tsxo fj ffj jivaib. lfaqtji, m hah clzrw rmv irvmwk nee ozzxi kecmjjmayfvc, ks r afyxb wrro ax jlvep mk fvhwv xj glacszb sf xqsji sptlrhk eusei. bylv-xs-hepi vrvmddirl gxych mjxf fi s qrwcimbnek ggqyeimems wsv ei bmegq rmzw mk xqi wmdqy sssc m qemi dcfu ew s rxr-rypgtsssc, euxysgem klel'w qeih rmw di xg fnpzihc lzzif xqiii iyx givzeyw r xtpjv lyfhaiu tmej jxvwxll klmr n wsyfh eiic fcizsyk ewh dimlivvmfk. jpjs, ffj sssc gxrkeulx nlel m aixedb fj xlw wrrxpq bzdfikx vsdizr ne xlw iwxzvq qjimik, ewcfrq umf vishb xyme ysu gef mmiexudd kli hepi eyyzji kilw jr fjrghzep bjf ovabgj uspd.

Update, Sunday 3pm: Gwen gets the contest question exactly right and wins the kewpie doll. The answer is "gwpa ggqnj ppnva bel, ycnj izo najozgt bdkcpj 'uxq pkold' wvz kwtag qpc xathrpael nvbpnijxa, fdc yvb lnmrzkdoza nqksqjx dnngggo pk ja kdn aewvu kb bdian swvxqao qj r zdaz." (Oops, apparently I might have done this backwards, so hit "encode" if "decode" doesn't work.)

Friday, July 20, 2007

what photoshop giveth, the internet tmzeth away

TMZ.com, the website dedicated to gleefully chronicling and promoting the decline of our civiilization*, has posted the above side-by-side comparison of Faith Hill as she appears on the cover of Redbook and Faith Hill as she appeared at the Redbook cover photo shoot.

* No offense to Carly.

i hate when i wake up in the middle of the night and can't fall back asleep

This is going to put a crimp in my plans to read HP7 straight through after buying it at midnight.

I'm just now reading Krugman's NYT column, which reminds the reader:
Around [June 2002] Ron Suskind, the investigative journalist, had a conversation with a senior Bush adviser who mocked the “reality-based community,” asserting that “when we act, we create our own reality.”
I wonder how many people there are who tut-tut this statement and yet have bought copies of The Secret.

not the sort of project i would take on, but it does have a certain recursive charm to it...

Brady is translating the German translation of a English novel back into English. I could see where this would be an interesting way to have a gold standard to compare one's translation skills to, but then again I guess that depends on how much one trusts the original translator.

The Traitor's Gate, btw, is one of 13 novels that Edgar Wallace published in 1927, two less than the 15 he published in 1926. I remember reading somewhere that at the height of his career he had periods of dictating a book a week.

The Wikipedia entry for Wallace is a good yarn in its own right. And, according to it, it's a book a weekend instead of week.

Thursday, July 19, 2007


1. "Role-taking" in symbolic interactionism refers to the capacity to adopt the perspective of the others, as in to understand the way a situation seems from the perspective the person to whom one is talking. I've come to wonder whether a penchant for using too small fonts in PowerPoint presentations be used to make a broader inference about people's role-taking skills.

2. Overheard from today: "She's the kind of person who, when you are with a group of people eating Indian food and one of the dishes is saag paneer, will cherry-pick out all the paneer as she's serving herself."

3. Also overheard:
"You might as well have just typed 'I'm losing it' and hit 'Post.'"
"What's wrong with not wanting anybody to spoil Harry Potter for me?"
"It's like you've announced to the world, 'World, I've sashayed over that boundary that separates the eccentric from the insane.'"

4. As for an actually-sociologically-interesting contemporary animals and society issue, this article on CBS SportsLine speculates that the Michael Vick trial will be lower profile but divide public opinion much as the O.J. Simpson trial did. Although Al Sharpton has already come out hard against Vick. I can't imagine there is ultimately going to be the same kind of evidentiary ambiguity in the Vick case as there was in the Simpson case. I wonder if/to-what-extent Blacks and Whites differ in perceptions of the severity of the crime, given various associations of dogfighting with hip-hop imagery and the more basic difference where Whites are more than twice as likely as Blacks to have pets.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

preliminary result

While the sample size is still small and thus conventional standards of statistical significance have not been reached, early indications are that, if one defines "effectiveness" as the indication that one has successfully made one's point, then saying "If you hear any Harry Potter spoilers and tell me, I'm going to be very annoyed" is less effective than "If you hear any Harry Potter spoilers and tell me, I will cut you."

BTW, I'm getting the book at midnight at Harvard Square. I'm thinking about doing an encoded simulblog as I read it.

Comments off for your protection!

spoiler shields up!

I will be a much less well informed citizen for the next several days.

i wonder if there is some bitter person who updates this sentence every month

From the Wikipedia entry for TIAA-CREF:
As late as July 2007, customers continue to see little to no response to complaints logged as early as October 2006.
I am officially able to start setting up benefits and other matters as a Northwestern faculty member (although my employer of record is still RWJ). First thing I want to make sure I do is get my retirement set up so that I'm doing something smart without having to think more about it. The University of Wisconsin's default retirement setup, which I went with because I didn't fully understand it and was stupid about appreciating how important it is to really understand it, is basically a good deal if you stay at UW for your whole career and not great if you ever take a job anywhere else.

Maybe there should be a junior faculty counterpart to Fabio's rules for graduate students. If so, one would be:
1. Take the afternoon, or day, or two days, or whatever, to make sure your retirement is set up in a way that provides a good solution for both flexibility before you retire and security for when you retire. The time will definitely not make a difference on the margin for your tenure, and it might make a difference of many tens of thousands of dollars at the end of your career.
(Actually, the very first official thing I did was set up my e-mail. Username remains "jfreese," bucking the strange NU default of "j-freese." Don't actually send any e-mail to it, as I haven't figured out how to receive it. And don't actually send any non-work-related e-mails to it anyway, as this time I'm serious about strictly using my university e-mail account only for that.)

Life update postscriptum: Yes, I understand that friends of mine hate getting life updates from my blog rather than by personal call or e-mail. But: my moving plans have hit a couple not-for-blogging snags, and smy original plan to leave Cambridge on July 31 has been abandoned. Now, I'm leaving Cambridge and heading to Evanston sometime between the end of ASA (8/15) and the end of August.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

the most unlikely claim i have read this year

From story on CNN.com:
PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island (AP) -- The longtime chairman of the Roger Williams University board admitted Monday to using the N-word during a board meeting, saying it "kind of slipped out."


[Eighty-year old] Papitto, who has given the school at least $7 million and whose name is on the only law school in Rhode Island, said he had never used the term before.

"The first time I heard it was on television or rap music or something," he told WPRO.
I'm imagining a longer version of the explanation: "I'd been listening to rap music on the radio for quite some time--something about those dope beats reminds me of my carefree days as a boy--and I couldn't help but notice this particular word they kept using. I had never heard it before, so I went to the dictionary to look it up. Said it was a 'Derogatory term for African-Americans.' Well, shoot, everybody knows that if you want to make a new word you learn stick, you need to use it yourself three times. So then I let it slip out in a board meeting, and all hell breaks loose."

the official jfw deathly hallows prediction

I've decided I am going to break with my six-books-strong tradition of listening to the Harry Potter audiobooks and instead buy the print copy of Deathly Hallows and read it. My preference would be to listen to the audiobook, but I am unconvinced that I will be able to avoid having some source spill an unwanted spoiler on me during the several days it would take me to listen all the way to the end. So I'm going to buy the book at midnight and read it before I look at any news source.

I'm trying to avoid reading any speculation about the book because I'm sure pre-release spoilers are already or soon available and I don't want to read any "speculation" that is directly or indirectly influenced by spoilers. I am nevertheless here posting my own prediction regarding the content of the book, largely so that I can gloat when proven correct. However, so no one who prefers suspense has the truth revealed to them inadvertently, I present my prediction in code. If you want to read it, go to this site, paste the paragraph below in the "Input:" window, type "jeremy freese" in the "Key:" window, and hit "Decode".

Clv tdmuyigq ec xyi qli fj Sjhnv fj Bfjfrmp ajw esf rmrx "rwmclvv xgavw azmui klq myyiv kyazzzqq" (fj xlsx fej gakucixwph prqq csumry xx xyef ztfo efcfep) fgr yyex firxyid *bnvw* azmui klq myyiv kyazzzqq. Xf, tvgfjfcc psj ks Lsvac siull r lsjgayo, lq ffj xs vmn jfv Hmquiqgvc xf huc. Jogihx, clisgem jsqw hnzzgq, ntjwmtph e uigq jo qeulrrr ezb ufwwafuc vbbjfzriv fh lrzull siif wnx zrfm rfxmgr kc Uyyzqvhsji oei mz yimerui jru eorzrxiv fh Weebc, Mrvvq arpc putj rrh Nsuhvqapy nmpd hri. Rpem, fj er arnbgpuafspi vmpvvwegte vixpngkmze Wfaparp'w uiegwv xs vmcgy fqgsx wiwr jw rr msyysv xsa gymxbwvr, lspoarc ffwfykz xqiii igqc fi s wqstoull jizwrcc-wmhc urki larrtier xtirw arxy Jdci rrh Yixvxi.

BTW, word on the street here in Cambridge is that Harvard square will be transformed into "Hogwarts Square" on Friday night, including a battle of the bands between a band that calls itself "Harry and the Potters" and completely separate band that has independently named itself "Draco and the Malfoys."

(No unencoded predictions of your own in the comments allowed!)

Monday, July 16, 2007

possible big breakthroughs in solar power that i don't think would be worth it in the long run

(story today in the NYT)

1. Creating second sun.

2. Moving Earth closer to sun.

3. Finding way to use the heads of bald men as roving solar panels.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

what's jeremy's beef with the animals & society section?

Regarding my recent post about a sociological article against "speciesism," someone asked why I seem to be regularly chiding those sociologists involved with the Animals & Society section. Reason #1 is that a certain friend who doesn't have a blog of her own keeps sending me these things, so things are brought to my attention more than they otherwise might. Reason #2, point blank, is that I have no enthusiasm for the fight against "speciesism" and reject approximately all of its attendant moral arguments*, and so I have a hard time seeing it listed alongside "racism" and "war" on the roster of social concern.

But, beyond that:

I think if I had to name what I regarded as the most genuinely interesting social trends in the US in the last 50 years, the shrinking pet-child gap would maybe make the Top 10 and would certainly make the Top 20. "Interesting"-ness is in the eye of the beholder, of course, and I suspect the shrinking pet-child gap particularly intrigues me because I grew up on a farm, in a culture with a very different attitude toward animals than the world I stepped into when I entered graduate school. Indeed, when I was in graduate school, for awhile I was keeping this tally for the sociology graduate student listserv of the number of times anyone sent out a message related to advocacy for an animal welfare cause versus a message related to advocacy for a child welfare cause. My recollection is that the score ended up Pets 11, Kids 4.

This, to me, is interesting, but apparently not interesting enough where it has risen to being anything I actually do research about. Which is another reason that I find sociology's animal movement interesting, because it exemplifies for me a larger point about sociology. As I said, I believe the shrinking pet-child gap is an interesting phenomenon, and it could be subject to a extremely interesting analysis from somebody willing to take a broad and engaged-while-still-somewhat-removed view of it. But, of course, who is going to do that?

Instead, the people who are going to enter the field of "animals and society" are going to be the people who are most committed to fighting speciesism as a cause--in other words, the people who are playing a vanguard part in the very thing I regard as the phenomenon. So, instead of sociologists offering studies that help to understand the shrinking pet-child gap--which, whatever you think of it, is an empirical phenomenon with all sorts of social ramifications, we get sociologists exhibiting the phenomenon by arguing for the value of work in which the researcher studies playing with his dog and in which the researcher tries to use sociological theory to justify a polemic that elevates "speciesism" to being of a piece with racism.

* Even so, inexplicably, I must confess that I've been lately thinking about returning to pescatarianism (that is, eating no meat except for seafood).

something tells me this will not be picked up and used in 'just say no' campaigns

Baseball player Gary Sheffield has been the subject of recurrent rumors of steroid use. Part of his denial in a recent interview: "[Sheffield] also says that he never took steroids because 'the bottom line is steroids is something you stick in your butt -- period.'"

Saturday, July 14, 2007

or else maybe he's been missing dinner parties all these years but people just assume he's flaky and don't bother asking why afterwards

A footnote in Jon Elster's Explaining Social Behavior (p. 49):
[A]nother coincidence felt more significant. There are two experiences I've only had once. One is being invited to a dinner party and then forgetting I'd been invited. The other is being invited to a dinner party and then having the host call me up half an hour before I was supposed to be there, to tell me he had to cancel because of illness. The coincidence, which made me think for a second that someone was watching over me, is that this was one and the same party.
Complete non-sequitur: I'm making good progress on the Elster book despite a recent re-obsession with the Back Dorm Boys. If you've never seen their performance of "I Want It That Way", I'll embed below. I can't believe many sociologists still want to talk about globalization like it's a bad thing.

Friday, July 13, 2007

chew on this

Qualitative Sociological Review has a special issue on "Animals and People." The lead article is "The question of animal selves: Implications for sociological knowledge and practice" from a sociologist at the University of Colorado. Concluding sentence of abstract:
[S]ociologists have an obligation to challenge speciesism as part of a larger system of oppression.
Some sentences from the conclusion of the paper:
Poverty, environmental degradation, homelessness, war, and the threat of terrorism are all high on the social agenda. Some would argue that they are more pressing than the well-being of animals. The flaw in this argument is that all problems are connected, and the segmenting of issues is both illogical and morally questionable. For example, the moral status of animals as property justifies institutionalized cruelty on the basis that we humans can use them as we see fit. The ideology of superiority, coupled with “might makes right,” also underpins sexism, racism, and homophobia.
While various other things might be said, I will admit to having reached a point of confusion regarding exactly what qualitative sociology is.

(Granted, I'm having trouble figuring out what exactly "analytic sociology" is supposed to be, and I'm currently floundering while trying to write an essay for an edited volume on that.)


(me, demonstrating the proper way to put on the wriststrap while officiating the madison wii party)

I'm having a few people from my program over this evening to play Wii Sports. The Wii party in Madison at the end of May was a rousing success: grad students, postdocs, and faculty all appear to enjoy the idea of making little avatars of themselves and then boxing one another. The prediction about the outcome of the boxing tournament that a Wii-experienced friend in Cambridge had made--"a girl will win"--was borne out with an all-female final. The exact reason for the female advantage in Wii boxing, if it exists, is not obvious. I beat two manly men on the way to the semifinals, but then lost a split decision--the only non-knockout of the night--to Mr. Hegemonic Masculinity himself, Sal. He floats like a butterfly, and stings like a Wii.

Tonight will be far fewer people, and we will probably play tennis in addition to box. Given that we are a health policy program, I wanted to buy the game where you get to perform surgery, but I don't see how I'd be able to get to a store that sells video games and get my apartment clean before the party starts. Apparently part of the surgery game--I'm not making this up--is that if you carve a pentagram onto the patient's chest, the game rewards you with super surgical skills.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

meanwhile, the folks behind how to write your dissertation in fifteen minutes a day expected you to do that whole quarter hour in a row

I have a friend who is planning on writing a book in ten nonconsecutive days this summer. I advised her to check out the book How To Write A Book In Ten Nonconsecutive Days. Turns out, though, this book does not exist. I suggested she might write it during the off days of the ten nonconsecutive days writing the other book. She was not amused.

"I was so! I giggled! I was amused!"
"It doesn't work as well as a post if I say that you were amused."
"You always misrepresent what I say on your blog. This is why you don't have a label with my name for posts about me."

i knew they were going to be annoyed when i turned in that grant proposal using 8-point wingdings

NSF issues new guidelines on fonts.

don't worry, baby boomers, i'm sure starbucks can just play that paul mccartney cd louder

On the NYT website today:

(earlier post here)

P.S. Now I'm looking at the weirdconverter.com site that Dan linked to, that allows you to convert the length and weight of all kinds of different objects into one another. Turns out: 1,863 Paul McCartneys = 1 viable soul.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

social forces: the top 3 journal that isn't even in the top 10 in sociology impact rankings

See post here at orgtheory, with the full sociology top 10 listed in the comments. Also, see earlier post and follow-up of mine in which I dispute the usefulness of the idea of "Top 3 journals" in sociology anymore, especially if taken seriously for the purposes of rankings of quality-productivity of either individual faculty or whole departments.

Of course, many people who read this blog don't care about sociology journals, and for you I have a beatboxing flutist doing the Beverly Hills Inspector Gadget theme song, which is at least worth watching for upwards of a minute if you've never seen it (HT to a certain diva whose secret blog I rip off again and again):

I have decided that at next month's ASA meetings, I will help restore some of the luster to Social Forces by staging a performance in which I do a beatboxing reading of one of its articles. Details to follow.

because the last thing apple wants is sales of a $600 product taking away sales from a $300 product

From CNN.com:
Another analyst Gene Munster of Piper Jaffray said he expects Apple to bring out iPods that resemble iPhone, which features such as a touch-sensitive screen, later this year. Such products would help stop iPhone eating into iPod sales.
Same article, different "analyst":
"We believe that iPod Nano will be converted into a phone because it's probably the only way for Apple to launch a lower end phone without severely cannibalizing iPod Nano," he said noting that the new phone could have "rather limited functionality."
Yes, why would anyone buy a iPod Nano that only plays music when they could get a iPhone with "rather limited functionality" that requires a two-year service agreement with AT&T? (Plus, I will be impressed if Apple was able to make an iPhone the same size and sell roughly for the same price as a Nano.)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

zoological mystery

animal cracker

I bought a bag of animal crackers out of the vending machine yesterday. It included several of the above. What is it supposed to be? Feel free to rotate your head or monitor around if you think that would help.

(As always when a book cover is used as background in a photo on this blog, an official JFW kewpie doll will be awarded to the first person to identify it.)

my dissatisfaction with active.com continues

active.com continuing to try to rip me off
(the letter I received from active.com)

Earlier post here. Now:
From: Jeremy Freese [mailto:jfreese@ssc.wisc.edu]
Sent: Tuesday, July 10, 2007 11:05 AM
To: 'activeadvantage@active.com'
Cc: '[username]@madisonfestivals.com'
Subject: membership cancellation

On June 23, I received an e-mail informing me that I was being charged $49.95 for a year membership in Active Advantage, on the claim that I had agreed to this charge if I did not cancel a trial membership in ActiveAdvantage that I supposedly signed up for when I signed up for the Madison Marathon. I have no recollection of having agreed to this charge, find it difficult to believe I would have signed up for it, and have not made any use of your services. On June 23, I responded to your customer website asking to cancel my membership immediately and asking for an immediate refund.

Instead, this weekend, I received a letter from your company dated June 27 (attached) whose first sentence is "Welcome Back to ActiveAdvantage!", suggesting that somehow my communication with your company has indicated a desire to continue with ActiveAdvantage rather than cancel. This is not the case. I would like to have my entire $49.95 refunded. As indicated, I have not used any of the ActiveAdvantage services, nor do I intend to.

I sought recourse to this today by calling the customer service number provided in the letter. After going through several touch-tone menus, I received a recorded message telling me that your system is down.

I am cc'ing an official from the Madison Marathon on this message. I believe the marathon would well serve its participants by reconsidering its relationship with Active.com. If this matter is not quickly resolved, I will be filing a consumer complaint with the state of Wisconsin against both Active.com and Madison Festivals.


Jeremy Freese
OK, that resulted in a quicker response than I was expecting:
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: activeadvantage@active.com
Date: Jul 10, 2007 11:38 AM
Subject: Trial membership canceled
To: [me]

We are sorry to lose you as an ActiveAdvantage member!

Thank you for using activeadvantage.


Your ActiveAdvantage Team
I'm a little concerned about the 'Trial membership' in the subject line, as the whole reason I was charged is I was moved into regular membership because the 'Trial' I have no recollection of signing up for expired. I'll have to see if the charge is actually refunded on my card.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

and you thought mr. pibb plus red vines was crazy delicious

Build your own surreal hot dog, here (HT: DH & JJ). I'd like to see somebody eat 66 of those in 12 minutes (reference to here).

we can't work it out

So, I am on record as being not just not anti-Starbucks but anti-anti-Starbucks. That attitude began to change when Starbucks was singlehandedly responsible for selling a million copies of Mitch Albom's latest book. Now, I have submitted a comment on their site:

starbucks boycott!

You have my word about this. I am not going back in there until that stupid white-and-pink poster of Paul McCartney clutching his lapels is gone. Gone! Of all the things the Baby Boomers have crammed down my generation's throat as being better than it really is because it happened to be happening at the age when they were most aesthetically impressionable, Paul McCartney is among the worst.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

there was something about the way he looked when they were talking on tv about his history of insanity and pedophilia that i thought was kind of cute

TMZ.com story: JonBenet Murder Suspect Busted for Domestic Violence. I can not be the only person to see this story whose first thought was: John Mark Karr has a girlfriend? I can understand O.J. Simpson having a string of post-verdict girlfriends, but John Mark Freaking Carr? He was single--albeit formerly married--when he "confessed" to having killed JonBenet Ramsey. Is there no species of celebrity that fails to make a man more appealing to at least some women?

Incidentally, few guilty pleasures make me feel more genuinely guilty than whenever I read TMZ.com. It sort of distills everything that is complacent and bad about our celebrity obsessed culture, and makes me think it's just a matter of time before the Visigoths come and plow us into the soil. Which doesn't mean I didn't enjoy seeing video of Bill Maher looking very awkward at the approach of a camera crew and reporter as he was leaving a restaurant after a date with a companion who has a forthcoming book about her sexual exploits with celebrities and whose nickname from her time in hip-hop circles is apparently "Superhead." (For the record, I noticed nothing unusual about the size or shape of her cranium in the video.)

Friday, July 06, 2007

which isn't to say that jer-tang clan is anything to trifle with, either, especially when i'm wearing my fetching australian cricket jersey

I called a friend earlier because she e-mailed to say she was having some problems and could use a distraction. I distracted her by pulling up Wikipedia and reading the "Legal Troubles" section of the Wikipedia entry for ODB from the Wu-Tang Clan. I tell you, there are enough troubles listed there to take anybody's mind off their own.

"In 1997, when he would have been 29 years old, he was arrested for failure to pay child support for x of y children. What's your guess for x and y?"
"Six and eight."
"Wrong, three and thirteen."
"No way he's paying support for ten out of thirteen children."
"It doesn't say he was paying support for the other ten; he just wasn't arrested over them. You know, I can't tell if the two times mentioned getting shot in 1998 during a home-invasion robbery are actually the same incident or two completely separate incidents."
"Probably the same incident."
"Yeah, what are the odds? Unless, well, you're this guy. Apparently once in the courtroom he called the female prosecutor 'a sperm donor.'"
"I'm not sure I get that."
"Me neither. Part of the thing that's interesting is that, while all this was going on, people sort of talked about him like he was kind of an eccentric college professor or something. Tee-hee, sometimes he's absent-minded and wears mismatched socks; sometimes he has a routine traffic stop escalate into a charge of attempted murder. He wasn't being talked about like one of the most completely dysfunctional and internally-poisoned persons ever to achieve fame for genuine artistic merit. And all because he came up with the idea of imitating the school teacher from the Charlie Brown animated specials while he rapped."

great beginnings are so much more common than great endings that the latter should be cherished at every opportunity

I had a conversation with a friend today about the video for Radiohead's "Just." (12 years ago! I wish time only flew when one was having fun.) Anyway, if you've never seen it, it's worth watching once:

Much more satisfying than the use Sofia Coppola made of the same device.

Unfortunately, I can't watch the video without it reminding me a little bit about my walk from University of Wisconsin Parking Lot 34 to the Social Science Building, circa February 2004.

quiz feature!

Received wisdom among those who run survey centers is that some interviewers are better than others at convincing respondents to participate in surveys. This is easier to assert than actually show. As some readers know, I am an investigator on the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, a survey of thousands of 1957 Wisconsin high school graduates that fielded its last round of phone surveys ~3 years ago. After several hours of meticulous data analysis, I have adduced strong evidence indicating that, in fact, some WLS interviewers were better than others. Today is thus not a day that feels much like I am splitting the sociological atom, here.

WLS respondents were in their late sixties; WLS telephone interviewers were mostly undergraduates (or undergraduate-aged). Any guesses about whether there was a sex of interviewer effect in the WLS (that is, a tendency for male or female interviewers to be better at getting respondents to participate)?

Thursday, July 05, 2007


dem puzzle

Due to a ten point swing, Barack Obama now leads Hillary Clinton in the predicted probability of being the Democratic nominee as indicated at intrade.com. (See the "Last" column above.) What's going on? I don't see anything in the news that would cause it. I wonder if it is some kind of market manipulation.

Hmm, in the time that it took me to post this, Hillary has gone back up to 42.6 vs. 38.4 for Obama. Very strange.

It could have been caused by someone who owned a large number of Hillary shares deciding to dump them. I wonder why. I wonder if it was Martha Stewart.

in my inbox

From a friend:
Your sudden obsession with the Wu-Tang Clan is only the very tiniest bit 
disturbing, and yet still I hope it lasts only for today.
A longer story beginning with "Wu-Tang Clan Aint Nuthin to [expletive deleted] With" coming up on the shuffle of my iPod while jogging. It's not even a song I like, especially as it is so clearly a ripoff of Freaktoastt J's "Freaktoast J is Not a Toy (Don't Give Freaktoast J to Children Under Five)."

I'm at the office today wearing an Australian cricket jersey, which looks sort of like this. Everyone who has come into the office today--and we are having an informal thing, so people are actually here today--has said something like "I like your shirt." None of them actually like it, but people are too polite to say, "Wow, what a strange and brightly-colored wardrobe choice for someone over thirty-five."

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

sometimes when i am at a loss for words i am still able to make a graph

all amazement until somebody dies

Update, short while later: I was sitting here in CGIS South writing with Sara when we were sidetracked by the distraction of websurfing the world of competitive eating. (Ralph Nader, btw, once included competitive eating along with corporate greed and political corruption as signs of societal decay--and he listed competitive eating first.) Sara is now buying me a T-Shirt for the International Confederation of Competitive Eating, I think because she thinks the slogan is particularly me: "Nothing in moderation." She asked me what size and I said to order a Large, so that if I got really fat I wouldn't be able to wear it.

Update, later: If you look at the graph up to 2001, you'd think we had basically reached the limit of human achievement where hot dog eating goes, but then Kobyashi comes along with his break-the-wiener-in-half-and-dunk-the-bun-in-water technique and we are off toward feats no one ever would have imagined possible. The guy who did 66 hot dogs today did 6 in the final minute, meaning he actually finished at a faster pace than he started.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

intended to be about novels, and yet also characterizes every academic paper over twenty pages i have written

From here (HT: Mary).

stata 10 graphics: first impression review

baseball graph
(percentage runs and percentage wins for mlb teams. the vertical distance from the regression line can be thought of as the extent to which a team is over/underachieving in terms of wins given its runs scored/runs against)

I made a toy graph this morning, firstly to celebrate the Yankees underachievement given that we are at the halfway point of the season, but secondly to try out Stata's new graphics.* It has changed the graphics menus all around to take advantage of its now allowing child dialogs, although in my opinion it ends up overusing them. If I had a choice between the Stata 10 and Stata 9 menus, I'd probably choose the Stata 9 menus, making this feel not exactly like an upgrade, but that could reflect more my familiarity with Stata 9. The big upgrade, anyway, is the Graphics Editor, but it ended up being not intuitive enough that it clear I would have to do more to figure it out than the simple playing I was hoping for. So the graph above doesn't even end up using it.

In a nutshell: The graphics editor was billed as the big reason for somebody who doesn't have reason to use the new statistical features of Stata 10 to upgrade. My first impression is that it's not enough. I've become pretty used to importing graphs into Illustrator or even just Office and editing them there anyway. I'll let you know if my opinion changes.

* My belief is that you cannot honestly be a liberal and root for the Yankees in any kind of serious way. I'm not kidding. At most you can be one of those untrustworthy liberals, the sort who espouses basic liberal values but then goes and cares more about the fate of pets than children in poverty.

fun for a fortnight

On the grounds that I really need to be subtracting addictive pastimes from my life rather than adding them, I deactivated my Facebook account. I wish I was better at moderation (especially as then I could have TV!). With the Facebook thing, I have to also confess that it alternatively made me feel old or like I was just one Corvette purchase away from a full-blown midlife crisis.

BTW, with Facebook RPS, you are assigned 100 credits to wager with other people. I was running ahead, but then lost two consecutive 50 point games to Emily that just about wiped me out. She, meanwhile, moved into the Top 10 for Wisconsin. The hard part of these two losses was that I felt, genuinely, outplayed. Somebody should get the Facebook RPS data and do an analysis like Levitt and whomever did for penalty kicks in soccer.

BTW-BTW, thanks everyone for petting my Wallaby. It moved from being "doleful" or "disappointed" whatever the lowest mood on the list was to being "beloved", "cherished", "revered", and then finally "glorified" (this is not, incidentally, how I would necessarily rank these moods if I was the one writing the scale).

Monday, July 02, 2007

sociology bloggers: are we having a get-together at asa?

Sorry if somebody has already posted about this and I've missed it. It has become an annual tradition, though.

UPDATE: The current plan is to meet at Saturday, 6pm, in the Hilton Lobby. Presumably we will go somewhere else, which means we need to have a plan for how to let people know where we've gone.

Sunday, July 01, 2007


This begins my last month in Cambridge. People keep asking me what things I want to make sure to do before I go. My answers are not especially inspiring, other than that I want to make sure I finish my quest to see all the planets in the Boston model solar system. Today, Sara and I went to Pluto, whose demotion to dwarf planet status I fully endorse but is part of Boston's system and so part of my quest. Pluto is at the Riverside T stop, which is the furthest stop out on the Green Line. We got there and there was all these buses, because the station had been closed due to some problem. Still, our bubbly astronomical enthusiasm was good enough to talk our way over the construction tape and up to the platform.


We also went to visit Brandeis University, including a stop by this peace garden they have there:

peace garden

If you look close, you can see I'm wearing my man purse. It was pointed out that the buttons on my man purse do not exactly suggest success at fulfilling whatever inner peace goals the peace garden may have:

man purse

As for the planets quest, the major obstacle to completion would seem to be--cue the Beavis laugh-track--Uranus, as the Saturn's location is only a few blocks from my house and the Sun is at the Museum of Science.