Friday, August 31, 2007

bullets of relocation miscellany

  • I am at a Travelodge in downtown Chicago, waiting for other friends from college who are going with me to this football game to arrive.
  • The movers today were un-be-bothering-lievably efficient, and so a task which took until past 5pm two years ago was done by 12:30. Unfortunately, my things were moving onto an empty truck, meaning they won't arrive at my apartment until Thursday at the earliest.
  • The movers verified that I was indeed, in their approximation, moving a ton of books, and this isn't even counting the Madison books, which are at least 1/2 and maybe 2/3 as many. If it wasn't for the books I've bought in the last two years and the elliptical trainer, I think my Clutter Reduction Effort made this move roughly stuff-neutral with the move two years ago, amazingly enough.
  • I had my last meal in Cambridge/Boston at the Legal Sea Foods in Logan Airport, which was fitting because I think I managed to have like ten meals in my last two months at Legal. O, the chowder. O, the popcorn shrimp.
  • No matter what the blurb on its cover may claim, A Farewell to Alms is not going to be "the next economics blockbuster." It's far too boring for that. I'm only 75 pages in, but at least it helped me sleep on the plane.
  • Yes, I finished my effort to visit all the exhibits in the Boston model solar system. The Sun, as it turns out, is only a quarter-section of the Sun. Saturn, as I said before, has been temporarily removed while its site (the Cambridge Public Library) undergoes renovation. With a friend who knew where in the library it had been, we calculated a spot outside the site for the picture that corresponds to the arc of Saturn's orbit. And, um, we thought if I couldn't have the real Saturn model in the photo, at least I should have a ring:
  • Intellectually and professionally, the time since ASA in Cambridge has felt like circling an airport. I am looking forward to getting my stuff, getting settled in, getting into a work routine, and getting started on building a life here. Root for me.

there is no sense in which i am proud of this, even if it does entitle me to a free coca-cola sportscar

coke zero caps
(accumulated coke zero caps in my office file cabinet drawer)

The movers arrive in 50 minutes!

the protestant genome and the spirit of capitalism

I've started reading A Farewell to Alms, a book about the economic history and macrosociology of the last two thousand years. It received an enthusiastic write-up in the New York Times (here), and I think its publication date might have been accelerated as a result.

The moral and political implications of the book's argument, either if it is true or if it comes to be regarded as true, are so breathtaking as to be hard to understate, especially in a hastily written blog post by someone who is moving.

The argument, most briefly, is that part of what led to the Industrial Revolution was a more longstanding improvement of the species over the preceding several hundred years, and, although the book is coy about saying this improvement could be either "cultural" or "genetic," it's clear that author's inclination is "genetic." The seemingly obvious implication if that were true--although I am uncertain from the 30-odd pages I've read so far whether the author will actually connect the dots he draws right there on the page--is genetic variation among people with ancestry from different parts of the world on traits pertinent to socioeconomic attainment. Good to have ancestry from the regions of the world that were the leaders of the Industrial Revolution or otherwise socially close to it, and bad to be from regions that were not close. In this respect, the argument could be interpreted as providing the historical backstory for The Bell Curve. So, it's important, especially given that it is by an economist and all the recent hoopla for economics as the enterprise that has the apparatus to uncover hidden insights into social affairs and the independent-mindedness to speak unpopular "truths."

As I said, I haven't read enough of the book to be able to begin to evaluate its evidence, and moving isn't exactly allowing great focused cognitive space for reading. I'm approaching the book with a lot more skepticism than the author of the NYT article. I know I post perhaps surprisingly little about the substance of social science on this blog, but it doesn't get more substantive than the history of human organization and the causes of social inequalities, so I'm putting y'all on alert about this book if you haven't heard about it.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

dispatch from my apartment, surrounded by boxes

So, I spent an inordinate amount of time this week getting the stuff in my apartment 75% packed, and now someone is here being incredibly efficient with the remaining 25%. It confirms my then-untutored suspicion that the two people who did the equivalent task in Madison were totally inept (because, in effect, they did the task roughly only as fast as I would have, and I take for granted that I'm inept.)

Anyway, I'm sitting here on my laptop, and apropos of nothing I was wondering about how the presidential candidates who have no chance are doing. As in, not how they are doing in the polls, but how they are maintaining a positive presence despite the absolute futility of how they are spending their time. Chris Dodd apparently has received an endorsement from a firefighters union. This fact is announced on his webpage by his banner photo being with a group of firefighters, the endorsement being the "Live Update" at the top, the endorsement being the photo headline, and the endorsement being two of the last five posts on his blog. Perhaps he will show up at the next debate in a spiffy dalmatian suit.

What propels these men forward? Back in 2004, I was convinced that Kucinich was just staying in the race to find some cute young wife out of the deal, a conviction regarded by friends as preposterous right up until it was shown to be exactly right. But what propels him forward this time? I was looking on his website for a position paper regarding legalizing bigamy, but did not see it.

I can't really look at the Republican minor candidates sites without being quickly made surly, but something to note more generally is that, on the prediction markets, Ron Paul (at 4.5% estimated probability of winning) might one day soon catch John McCain (at 5.6%). A guy in Cambridge is inkjet-printing paper signs supporting Ron Paul and stapling them to telephone poles around Cambridge. You don't see anyone doing that for John McCain.

BTW: I feel good about all I've discarded as part of my War On Clutter. I was particularly pleased with how many no-longer-needed cables of one kind or another I had thrown out, until I realized that the cable I need to upload photos from my digital camera has gone mysteriously missing.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

what about little dogs? do little dogs pay taxes?

Leona Helmsley, who allegedly once told her housekeeper "Only the little people pay taxes," has left $12 million dollars to her Maltese, which works out to $2 million more than the sum of what she gave to the four children of her previously deceased son.

Speaking of doggy discrimination, I was on the bus the other day when the driver refused to let this woman with cerise hair on with her pit bull. As he closed the door, he said to the passengers nearest to the front--a woman with three children who had been let on, no questions asked--that "A chihuahua, fine. One of those things, no way." Where are the symbolic interactionist criminologists to consider whether part of why pit bulls are so violent is the way they get "labeled" by social authorities?

one of those moments where i think: that's kind of sketchy, and kind of brilliant

I was talking this evening to someone who works as a graduate student in one of the natural sciences. He was working on writing a review of a manuscript that the professor who runs his lab was asked to review. The idea is that the professor will briefly read over the article and the review, make any modifications that seem worthwhile, and then dispatch with his review responsibility by sending it off. The student seemed to think it was all a useful pedagogical exercise, in addition to just so happening to save his advisor the better part of a day's work. Is this common in the natural sciences? Has anyone heard of someone doing this in the social sciences?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

perhaps miss teen usa should start administering the gss question on whether the earth goes around the sun, or the sun around the earth?*

1. If you have not seen this yet, and you enjoy laughing at beautiful young people embarrassing themselves on national television in ways that would probably haunt them for the rest of their lives if not for the fact that their beauty will allow themselves to select into adoring and/or infatuated peers, then you absolutely have to watch this (HT: Jennifer Lena, whose blog has moved).

2. Sure, it's funny, but if your intellectual trajectory has ever had cause to cross the literatures on "health inequalities" and "digital inequalities", you might see an analogy between the logic of the coherent part of her answer and various writings that wildly overattribute the cause of inequalities to differences in what can be straightforwardly characterized as "access."

3. I love that I was listening to "Maps" by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs just before I pulled up the clip.

* See previous post on the GSS question here, as well as Omar's instant classic original post here.

Update: Dan Myers, himself a winner of many boy-beauty-pageants in his youth, has posted this clip as well.

evidence the facebook scrabble people really don't understand how scrabble passion works


Days! How precious!

Monday, August 27, 2007

regarding the purported glory days of public sociology

For whatever reason, after a couple different exchanges with the proprietors in which we believed the problem to be fixed, I am still not able to comment at Orgtheory (boys, eventually I'll start to take this personally). Fabio has a post about a speech that Orlando Patterson gave on the occasion of Malcolm Gladwell receiving the ASA award for "Excellence in Reporting of Social Issues." Says Fabio:
Patterson noted that until the 1970s or so, you had quite a few sociologists who captured the public’s imagination such as David Riesman and C. Wright Mills. After that time, prominent sociologists decreased in the public imagination.
Fabio raises several hypotheses for why you might believe Patterson or not. On the negative side, I would like to raise another, which is just that ideas of the existence of "quite a few sociologists who captured the public's imagination" then as opposed to now is wildly overblown. Evidence? If Fabio had just included blanks instead of the names of Riesman and Mills, experienced sociologists would have guessed exactly which two names to fill in. If there was such a public sociology efflorescence back then, why wouldn't there be a larger pool of salient examples? (Especially since The Lonely Crowd was published in 1950 and The Power Elite in 1956, and apparently Patterson was talking about a 20-30 year period.)

Not even to mention that Tuesdays with Morrie probably outsold The Power Elite and The Lonely Crowd combined. Why doesn't sociology do more with its Tuesdays with Morrie legacy. I say, Every Day With Morrie!*

BTW, Dan has written an enthusiastic post about Gladwell's acceptance of the award. Meanwhile, I seem to remember being on a panel at the Eastern Sociological Society meetings this spring in which another panelist, a sociologist of some prominence, alleged with considerable irritation that Gladwell interviewed the sociologist Duncan Watts for three days for the Tipping Point and then wildly undercredited his contribution in the book.

* OK, so I don't actually say that. However, I do have a friend who has talked about getting an EDWM tattoo.

Update: Thanks to Brayden, the commenting problem appears resolved.

bullets of moving miscellany

  • Today I finally snapped out of my denial about moving in a week and made big progress. Regarding the concurrent effort to pare things down, I threw out well over half of the cables of one kind or another that were in different boxes in my apartment. The biggest single reduct was being able to get rid of several hundred feet of telephone cable and connectors I had saved from back when I had apartment configurations and dialup that required me to string phone line from one end to the other and back. I was surprised at the unnatural nostalgia I felt for cords.
  • Price per 1.5 cubic foot boxes for carrying books when purchased last month at the U-Haul store in Madison, WI: $1.70/box. Price at TAGS Hardware in Cambridge, MA: $6.49/box.
  • ASA found and sent me my lost iPod! While I may have ambivalence about never having considered naming my blog anything other than "Jeremy Freese's weblog," I benefited from naming my iPod "Jeremy Freese's iPod." I returned the replacement I had purchased to the store. Given that the night before I had spent my insomnia time reading the blog of the kid who developed the soldering-iron-and-software method of hacking an iPhone, I was tempted to trade up to an iPhone rather than just get my money back.
  • I did not do as well as I had aspired in getting rid of books, but some will not be moving back with me. The Tao of Pooh just made the cut, the Te of Piglet did not. I entertained getting rid of almost all my reference books--who uses a print dictionary anymore?--but in the end could part only with my Random House Word Menu.
  • I have an extra ticket to the Iowa Hawkeyes versus Northern Illinois football game at Soldier Field on September 1. I'm just saying. Presumably this year I will be subdued in the Hawkeye regalia I wear to the game, just from not wanting to haul too much of it with me on the plane out there.
  • The unfortunate situation with my housing is unchanged. Briefly, I have an absolutely fabulous apartment but, due to a planned roommate situation falling through, it's much more money for much money space than what I want to pay. Not sure if I should try one last craigslist assault regarding this.
  • I have completely fallen off the wagon on the one Coke Zero a day thing. More generally, I've been living the lifestyle of someone who will return to looking like a narwhal. This has got to stop when I get to Evanston!

Saturday, August 25, 2007


uranus #1uranus #2
(me, a bunch of small children, and uranus)

Okay, so I have been advised by counsel to skip the story of how I was almost murdered at this incredibly sketchy Citgo when all I wanted to do was see Uranus. Uranus is in the Jamaica Plain public library, and a lovely friend who cares very much about my personal safety and well-being was kind enough to drive me there, with the unexpected bonus treat of a delightful little "urban adventure" on the way. (In truth, what happened was no big deal, but keep in mind I don't have that much experience in cities and so get rattled easily. And also, when we finally got to the library, I discovered that there was a bloody prosthetic hook dangling from the handle of my car door.*)

We got to the library and looked all around, but Uranus was nowhere to be seen. So we asked and Uranus was down in the basement, where some kind of story hour was going on. Luckily it was almost over, and so we didn't have to wait long. There were still children around, but we went in and got the necessary photo nonetheless. I now have eight photos down in my quest to visit every site in Boston's model social solar system before I leave, and have only Saturn and the Sun left with one week to go before I move.

* Mom: I'm kidding about the hook.

Friday, August 24, 2007

it's not like you are only spending money when you pay at the pump

Discover Your Inner Economist has this quote from another economist to the effect that, "A person who has never missed a flight is someone who has spent too much time waiting in airports." I was recently in a conversation with some friends in which the women were bragging about how of course they have never in their lives had they ever run out of gas while the men, at one time or another, all had. I wish I would have been in touch with my Inner Economist enough to retort that "A person who has never run out of gas is someone who has spent too much time standing in gas stations," as I think this is exactly right. As much of a pain as it is to run out of gas, if you imagine the extra time spent by someone who always refills at 3/8 versus someone who refills over 1/8, the former goes to the gas station 14 times for every 10 times for the latter person. If we budget getting gas at 7 minutes per stop and saying the latter runs a 1 in a 1000 risk of running out of gas, then running out of gas would have to be enough of a pain that a person is willing to trade 46.6 hours of their time to avoid it. So being proud of never running out of gas is like being proud of having spent a week of vacation time standing at Citgo.

This is the prelude to an anecdote that ends, improbably enough, at Uranus, but that will have to wait until later.


"I told her that you and I write together."
"You always say 'write together.' I always say 'collaborate.'"
"I never say I collaborate with anyone. Saying somebody is a collaborator always makes me feel I'm saying they are like the Vichy government."
"Yeah, I'm not really like the Vichy government. Except I wouldn't mind being headquartered in a resort town."

"I think maybe I'll read the pigeon guy's paper to see what all the fuss is about."
"If you download it, can you send it to me?"
"I think he has it on his website."
"I don't know his name. All I've heard is 'the pigeon guy.' Do you think I can Google 'the pigeon guy' and get it?"

Thursday, August 23, 2007

water, water everywhere / nor any drop to drink

I received an e-mail this morning from a friend saying that the Today Show was broadcasting a dispatch from Fort Dodge, Iowa -- only 16 miles away from my hometown of Manson -- because of flooding in the area. I look online and the story is that Manson is even more the center of the flooding than Fort Dodge. This was the first I heard of it, so immediately I called my mom.

Our land is on a rise, so for us to get flooded out would require something Biblical. * Still, apparently we have water in our basement, which we've had recurrently since moving into the house 27 years ago. Worse, says my Mom, something with all the rain has caused the switch for our well to break, so my parents have no running water. They are catching rain in barrels to use as their non-drinking water. Plus the septic tank is full and so the toilets won't flush. I didn't ask for details on how they are handling that.

I have a photography-inclined reader from Manson--if you read this, you know who you are--so maybe I'll get some photos of the flooding. The golf course is always an especially compelling flood zone.

* Or, more properly, anti-Biblical, given the whole rainbow thing. I remember my Sunday School learnin'! (Although, wait, is the thing with the rainbow symbolizing God's promise not to flood the world again actually in the Bible, or is it part of the non-scriptural overlay given to various Old Testamant episodes?)

a better title might have been: re-discover your inner economist

I read the first six chapters of Discover Your Inner Economist by the economist and popular blogger Tyler Cowen today. I don't read his blog, but given how much people enjoy it, I was expecting the book to be better. Indeed, I kept reading despite not feeling I was getting much out of it because I kept presuming it would get better. It didn't.

While reading it, I was reminded of the line in Ghost World where Enid says some kitsch performer has gone from being "Past being so bad it's good to being bad again." In this case, one of the main parts of book's overall argument is to go past being counterintuitive to where it is intuitive again. Earlier popular economics writers like Steven Landsburg have created a stage in which another economist talking about how much of the world of interpersonal relationships and intrapersonal striving is not, in fact, like buying bananas at the supermarket can be called channeling one's Inner Economist, instead of, well, one's Humanity. That is, sometimes Cowen is arguing to a popular audience against standard economics and more toward the view the popular audience would have if it hadn't paid attention to some of the excesses of standard economics in the first place.

Apparently also, if you have a Ph.D. in economics, you can give whatever life advice and theories about human nature that you have and pass it off as manifesting economic expertise. Much of the book is about Cowen's vague ideas about the human need for "control." The last anecdote that made me decide I couldn't justify spending any more time with the book began:
On a more personal level, a willingness to give up control can make us better teachers. When we teach our children how to drive, we like to pretend they will never do anything stupid. We give them a lecture about the long list of things they should never do.

My approach is different. I taught Yana, my then-fifteen-year-old stepdaughter, how to drive. One day I started with: "The first thing we are going to do is hit the curb. Drive over the curb, just not too fast." This is the best way to learn where the curb is. Yana is going to find the curb anyway, sooner or later, so let this learning occur under safe circumstances.
Some people might find these expositions more interesting or amusing than I did, but they also provoked this recurrent sense that we were straying far for a book that said it was going to be about incentives. He has this whole chapter about how to appreciate art better, parts of which were interesting, but even then I kept wondering how particular points were "economic." It's as if anything that evinces wisdom in a social setting is to be understood as channeling your Inner Economist.

* This column by Landsburg in Slate singlehandedly stunted my growing interest in economics for almost a year, by making an enterprise that I was coming to better appreciate suddenly seem ludicrous (the stunting abated when I realized that Landsburg was not the ambassador of mainstream economics he presents himself as being).

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

(ongoing series) how the english language would be different if it had been designed by quantitative social scientists

19. There would be more exact synonyms for "suggest," that most magical word of assertion without authorial commitment or responsibility.

There are too many suggests in this thing I'm revising, so I just changed one to "indicate." But, compared to "Our results suggest that X", saying "Our results indicate that X" is so strong. I guess I could use "raise the possibility that X", although going to that well too many times is way more conspicuous than when one does it for "suggest."

Complete non-sequitur addendum: I don't feel like this is worth a post unto itself, and yet feel compared to share it with you if you haven't seen it: a mash-up combining "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and "Bootylicious." The video isn't that compelling, but the mash-up of the music, which apparently dates from 2001, is fabulous:

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

you know you are in a gay resort town when...

I wanted to have a magazine so I would have something to read on the ferry ride back from Provincetown to Boston. I went into the store that said it was Provincetown's Largest Newsstand. I would have preferred to buy, perhaps in order, The Economist, The Atlantic, or Harper's. The store had none of these, but it did have an entire rack of gay porn magazines and an entire rack of nongay porn magazines (granted, GQ, which isn't specifically gay, and Details, which as far as I know is still a strange kind of closeted gay*, were on this rack as well).

As we figured out when we arrived at the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown, yesterday just happened to be the 100th anniversary of the laying of the original cornerstone by Teddy Roosevelt at this monument, and so Provincetown was having a special celebration. So, there was a parade. The parade was comprised mostly of Freemasons, and thus the day combined a disproportionate number of male couples walking around with a disproportionate number of men-in-fezzes.

I am neither gay nor a Freemason. Having this instance to observe them both side-by-side, however, gay culture makes a lot more sense to me than Freemason culture. I think whatever goes on behind the closed doors of Freemason temples must be either wilder than anything I can imagine or more boring than anything I can imagine; there can be no in-between.

Back in Boston, we went back and forth trying to find the Boston Massacre site before being informed by a street vendor that it was just this circle of cobblestones in a little triangular intersection, without any explicit plaque marking it as such. Our photo, there:

boston massacre site

We also had dinner last night at Cheers; by this point, everybody there really does know our names.

* When it was a Conde Nast publication, Details fabricated reader's poll data to downplay its percentage of gay readers.

Monday, August 20, 2007

to the sea!

to suffer death without the benefit of clergy
(my favorite sign in the Old North Church)

Full day of Boston tourism with my niece and sister yesterday. Today we are taking some kind of high-speed ferry to the Cape. This will be my first time going to the Cape, and will allow me to avoid giving an embarrassed "No" answer when I tell people I spent two years at Harvard and they ask me if I ever made it out to the Cape.

Of all the places we went yesterday, I think we spent the most time in the bar that served as the inspiration for "Cheers."

Sunday, August 19, 2007

random bullet points about violence and moving

  • I didn't get to walk around much while in NYC. On my way to Central Park with a friend, though, we passed a corner where two down-and-out-looking men were arguing loudly. "What the bother are you doing?" shouted one, "Woman walking with her kid and you bother with her like that." The other man was gesturing menacingly toward him with this thing that looked like a homemade bullwhip. We just kept walking. It did remind me of how pleased my mother was on the phone back when I told her I had decided against moving to New York.
  • Yesterday in Harvard Yard I saw a woman with an uppermost-crust English accent go absolutely apebother on her seven-or-so year old daughter. The daughter was wheeling along the bike with tassels on the handlebars and, as part of a tantrum, had the idea to just leave it on the ground and walk away, at which point Posh went postal. Nothing physical, just shrieking, still disturbing, and yet also with the accent she still sounded classy. Made me wish again I had gone through my original plan to disappear as part of this fellowship and emerge with a bushy head of hair and a plummy English accent.
  • Sister B and her daughter are coming in town to visit. This meant I was supposed to do some cleaning today, although the most productive parts of that were more pre-moving stuff than cleaning per se. On the latter, however, I continue to marvel at how ubiquitious mop technology is given its fairly small advantage over pushing a rag around vigorously with one's foot.
  • Part of my pre-moving preparations are that I made real progress in my plan to get rid of 25% of my wardrobe. This includes various T-shirts and sweatshirts that I have been saving not because I have any plans to wear them again, but because I have one nostalgic connection or another. My plan for these, I think, is going to be to take photos of them and make them into a Flickr set, then discard.
  • So far, so good, with my effort to lower my use of profanity by substituting "bother."
  • First things I did today were cash in my accumulated spare change and buy a replacement iPod. The change came to within $10 of what the iPod cost. Which means that, for the past two years, I could have just been throwing my spare change in the wastebasket, if in addition I paid attention to my belongings enough not to lose my iPod. The ongoing tax imposed by my absent-mindedness, especially when its consequences are compounded by being sleep-deprived and traveling like at ASA, gets so bothering tiresome. Ugh. I don't know why Apple can't help people track down lost/stolen iPods since they can match the serial number and iTunes store account of any iPod that plugs into iTunes.

Friday, August 17, 2007

well, there goes the rest of my career

first facebook bingo (rewraps)
(first facebook bingo - rewraps for 85 points)

I reactivated my Facebook account this afternoon, after learning they have an application that allows you to play Scrabble.

At one point during my time as a junior faculty member, I started playing online Scrabble through this international server, played 112 blitz games (5 mins each side) in a period of six days, and then canceled my account and haven't logged in since. Various lessons about my can be drawn from this episode.

I have been a complete bother up work-wise anyway since returning from ASA. I did buy a bunch of boxes today to pack up my office, so if I'm not going to make progress on any of the four papers I want to finish up in the next six weeks, at least I can make progress on moving.

(ongoing series) things in this world that are plentiful and yet i wish there were still more

931. Novelty socks.

(Even though I don't wear them myself, sticking instead to my ever-expanding collection of argyles.)

Speaking of novelty socks, once upon a time I was talking to this woman who was all excited because she had received a letter inviting her to participate in a novelty sock scheme. There was a list of 3 names, and you were supposed to send a pair of novelty socks to the person whose name was at the top, then send a new list with your name at the bottom to 8 more people, etc.. Only I don't have those numbers quite right, because if everyone participated one would end up getting 71,347 pairs of novelty socks. I told her that she would end up getting no socks. She said my prediction was indicative of a larger character flaw of mine, namely a lack of faith. When I talked to her again a couple months later, she reported receiving no socks. She repeated that my prediction was indicative of a larger character flaw of mine, namely a lack of faith. I decided afterwards that she was probably right about this. I mean, what is more worth an implausible leap of faith than the prospect of many thousands of novelty socks?

Thursday, August 16, 2007


"Thanks for liberating my car."
"No problem. I was going to put a dead body in the trunk, but none were available."
"Everything went smoothly?"
"I was hoping for more of an ordeal. I thought I would have stories."
"I have no idea how I am going to do the Madison part of my move."
"You still have stuff in Madison?"
"My office."
"You know full well that I cannot drive a U-Haul truck in Chicago. Not even Evanston."
"You'll have to hire someone to drive it for you."
"They also re-keyed my office, charmingly enough, so I have to move out during a weekday."
"Why would they re-key your office? And why wouldn't they wait until you moved out?"
"I have absolutely no idea. The mysteries of Madison. Anyway, maybe I'll go buy an iPod today. Sooner I get another one, sooner I can lose it again."
"I say you wait until they make one you can put directly in your head. Then you can be bionic like your Dad."
"Maybe I should buy an iPhone just for all the non-phone features."
"How is that going to keep you from losing it?"
"I would probably lose it even faster, but I'd be so cool until then."

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

blogging, public sociology, and your cat

Jay Livingston, who I had the pleasure of meeting at ASA, has posted about the session on blogging on which I was a panelist. He has me saying:
“People say they don’t want to read about your cat,” said Jeremy Freese, “but in fact the posts about your cat are the ones that get the most response.”
I appreciate the nod, but this isn't really what I said. I did invoke the idea of blogging about one's cat. However, this was because when I introduced myself I said I had started blogging after seeing Kieran's blog, but I didn't want to misrepresent my own blog as having the same content orientation as Kieran's. So, what I said was that Kieran had once told me that when he started blogging he wasn't sure what he wanted to do but he knew I didn't want to blog about his cat, and I said that I didn't have a cat but if I did, I would almost certainly blog about it sometimes.

Chris was the one who said something about there being the idea that nobody is interested in what you had for lunch and then it turns out that, indeed, some people are interested in what you had for lunch, and might even be more interested in that than some serious post you spent a lot of time on.

Later, I made a related point, which is that audiences very much influence the content of blogs, as content of subsequent post tends to bend in a direction toward those previous posts that get the most response. I cited one example at the panel, which I won't repeat here, but I could cite others and, for that matter, this blog as well. Eszter argued against this as a normative argument--she argued that people should follow their muse because the explicit feedback they get isn't even a good indicator of what posts people actually like--but I intended the statement mainly as a descriptive one, as part of what typically happens with blogs.

I might write more about the blog panel later. Scott from Inside Higher Ed was there; I was sad we didn't get a story out of it, although he has provided good coverage of ASA.

dodging reviewers

Wicked Anomie, whom I had the pleasure of meeting at ASA, posted a list of tips for getting your paper published based on a session of journal editors at ASA. One of them:
[A]nyone you name in the acknowledgments will NOT be called upon to serve as a blind reviewer. That statement may sound obvious, but think about it this way: if there is anyone you DON'T want reviewing your paper (nemesis, archenemy, etc), acknowledge their brilliant advice on an earlier version of your manuscript.
I regard this as ethically sketchy and am somewhat surprised an editor recommended it. Nonetheless, from a purely strategic standpoint, my recommendation would be that the smart thing to do if you are going to insert a name of somebody who has not read your paper into the acknowledgments as a way of having them off the list of possible reviewers, remove that person's name after the paper is accepted. There is someone who has acknowledged me on at least one paper on which I most certainly did not provide feedback prior to its publication, which you might imagine was irksome for me to see, both because of the private implication to me that the person is trying to dodge having me review their paper and the public implication that I provided help on a paper I think is of quite low quality.

BTW: I don't typically include acknowledgments in manuscripts I send under review. I wait until after the paper is accepted and add them. (I'll sometimes have them on drafts I circulate, and will usually not include them in the version I send for review.) Is that unusual?

Monday, August 13, 2007

asa rulz

I started today with the $28 (plus tax/tip) breakfast buffet, and am ending it now with a $26 (plus tax/tip) room service pizza.

BTW, I don't know if Fabio has this in his "grad school rulz", but while it's good to be able to describe your dissertation to another person in 2-3 sentences, those sentences should be delivered without using air quotation marks 5 or more times.

Also, the outgoing chair at Wisconsin came up to me and said people had been mentioning to her how I had linked to a couple of selections from her webpage in saying she should start a blog. She said, "You should have linked to my Hoops and Hurdles memo, that's my favorite one." We then discussed our favorite memos that she had sent out as chair, hers being the annual memo she send out regarding sexual harassment, mine being the memo she sent out to rally collective support for normative restraint as a solution to unsustainable growth in the cost of the free printing offered to graduate students (an approach was has basically worked; I thought about posting her memo along with a detailed rational choice analysis of the rhetorical strategy by which it worked).

I have enjoyed ASA, but I have not spent as much time interacting with several of those I would consider in my "most cherished circle" of sociology friends as I would have liked. Of course, every time I text Sal trying to get his whereabouts, his first response is always that he's out loitering in the parking lot.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

dispatch from my suffering from insomnia in my hotel room, manhattan

I just came across this site where the challenge is to name all 50 states in less than 10 minutes. With no especial rush, I did it in 2:53, although when I finished I was a bit surprised I hadn't missed any as I swept across the country.

Brief as it was, I don't think this is the best use of my ASA time. Ugh--I hate when I am unable to sleep.

Friday, August 10, 2007

dispatch from manhattan

Back in my hotel room at ASA. I am pinch-hitting a presentation for someone at 8:30 tomorrow morning, but have it under control. My presentation at the orientation to the Minority Fellows Program this afternoon went well enough. I also spoke there last year. The two experiences easily rank #1 and #2 of most interesting and engaged audiences I've had in speaking at a major professional conference.

Earlier Tina showed me her iPhone, which is the first time I've handled one. I tried to text a message and could not get it to type a single word correctly, although sometimes it's suggested correction was correct even though it did not share a letter with the word I was trying to type (apparently it understands, e.g., if you miss every key to the left). That I found maddening, but then Tina showed me the photo program where you can scroll through programs and flip them around and zoom in and such, which was amazing. As was the ability to do the same thing with maps. Tina was excited to actually be able to use the phone on the iPhone, as that part doesn't work in Canada. If it wasn't for the text messaging and two-year AT&T lock-in, I would have been sold, even at $600.

So far my visit to New York has affirmed that New York really is too much for me, even though I recognize that Midtown and Downtown--where I was today--are much different from Uptown. Even so, the commotion inside me is so much I don't think I could handle so much commotion outside, all the time. The honking alone when I walk around outside nudges me toward disequilibrium.

BTW, I thought about not paying the $15/day to have wireless in my room. Since I can check my e-mail on my phone. My resolve for this crumbled in less than a half hour.

with lyrics like these, who would have ever thought the halcyon era of boy bands would come to a crashing end?

So, a friend was effervescing to me on the phone about this show "Mission: Man Band", where they take some guys from 90's boy bands who didn't go onto any solo glory and put them together to give them one more shot at glory. Kind of like when I was a kid and the cars that were the losers in the preliminary rounds of the demolition derby would have a special round and the winner would go on to the finals, as if a car that had already lost in one demolition derby and participated in a second was really going to be a good contender in the finals.

I wasn't hooked on my friend's excited recap until I realized one of the guys was the lead singer of the group who did the song "Summer Girls," which my friend didn't even remember. "You know, the Abercrombie and Fitch song." "What Abercrombie and Fitch commercial was it in?" "No, it's the song where they say 'Abercrombie and Fitch' so many times you think it has to be a commercial."

The lead singer is the recruit into Mission: Man Band. Apparently his life had gone down a negative spiral as it was after their one song in the sun, but then he also now has leukemia. It makes the video poignant, as it was only eight years ago and the guy looks like he presumes he's got bigger days in front of him, as opposed to this video being the apex of his career.

What's especially notable about "Summer Girls" is it has some of the best rhymes in the history of half-hearted-hip-hop. My three favorites:

3. Fell deep in love / but now we ain't speaking
Michael J Fox was Alex P Keaton

2. (as part of the chorus)
New Kids On The block / had a bunch of hits
Chinese food makes me sick.

1. (perhaps the best rhyme in the history of boy band music)
When you take a sip / you buzz like a hornet
Billy Shakespeare wrote a whole bunch of sonnets

(ongoing series) lessons i have learned the hard way

3,684. If someone reveals their romantic history includes having dated a dwarf, they will get touchy if, every time thereafter when they are talking about a former significant other, your first response is, "Hey, was that the dwarf?"

Update: Postdated this post to 2008 by accident. Thanks, Nina, for alerting me to the problem.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

no one ever said the 's' in 'asa' stood for security

OK, I have way too much today to do to be blogging, but: ASA has opened their new online messaging service, and it's structured in such a way that anyone with a lick of sense who received the e-mail with their own username (their e-mail address) and default password can immediately deduce anybody else's password. Which means one can pose as anyone else and leave messages for whoever under their name. This is not especially different from what one was always able to do with ASA, since it's not like the old messaging systems ever had any kind of security to verify that people were who they said they were. And it's not like when you leave a message at a hotel for someone you are asked to prove who you are, etc.. What it adds the veneer of security that comes along with there being a nominal password, so spoofed messages are likely more credible.

Plus, you can also use the new system to send e-mails to anyone! So, if you've had any pent up inclinations for poison-pen e-mails, just pick your favorite senior sociologist and go. Maybe Fabio will post a special edition of his "Grad School Rulz" about how you can use the ASA messaging system to destroy your rivals on the job market.

(Needless to say, I changed my password before posting this. If you change your password, you can also set the system to forward messages to your e-mail account, so that you don't have to wonder if anyone has left you a message so long as you are checking your e-mail.)

the emperor's new book

Attend a workshop at Yale yesterday on "analytic sociology." Unusual format: instead of presenting your own paper, you had 20 minutes to present someone else's paper. Not as a discussant, but rather you were supposed to present the other person's paper much as you would your own (the main differences being that you say use "[name]" or "s/he" where in your own paper you'd say "I", and you can inject much more explicit praise of someone one's paper where for your own this would be considered tacky). Afterward, the author had 10 minutes to expand or correct or otherwise comment, and then it was open to the floor for discussion.

The stated reason for this format is the idea that other people can present one's work more clearly than one can. I don't know if this is true. However, the workshop brought together papers that are supposed to be appearing in an edited volume on the topic, and having to give the paper to someone else to present on your behalf is a good motivating mechanism to make sure one has a relatively full draft to present to others. (At least, it worked for me, for 2 of the 8 papers, the author did not have a complete draft in time and so they just presented their own.)

My paper on preferences was nicely received but not fully understood. It's a tricky argument, briefly and imperfectly made. I will have to endeavor to make it clearer, although I'm only going to be able to do so much since I am already up against the word count. My presentation (of someone else's paper) went all right but was not an especially pleasant experience, as when part of the paper that I had glossed over quickly turned into a main matter for the discussion, I kept sitting there feeling like I had let her down.

BTW: Anecdote from the conference was that somebody made a reference to Sociologist A having made a "emperor has no clothes"-ish dig about the incomprehensible writings of Eminent Sociologist B in a very public forum.* What had actually happened was that A used a hypothetical example of a scholar with incomprehensible writing and somebody in the audience said "B!", and now the story has become changed to where it had been A who said "B", so he's presented as like the kid who said the emperor had no clothes when he was really like the kid who gave a hypothetical example of a naked person and some other kid said "The emperor!"

* That of B's work I have attempted to read is, in fact, mostly incomprehensible to me, and I've never known whether those say they were much influenced by the work are (1) gleaning something from it I have not, (2) gleaning something based on interactions with B or just the occasional clarity around key concepts, or (3) lying. My belief is anyone who has read B will suspect who I am talking about; the problem is more that they may have other suspects as well.

Update: If you suspect you know who Eminent Sociologist B is, but are not sure and think I'm a "tease" for not naming names -- here's the deal: go to this site, paste "joiimuh nhaphynh vidabt chzymukvc qk siau uhvl ietwedeaomgwpbcv" in the box, enter the scholar's first and last name in the "Key" box, and hit "decode." If you are correct, the resulting message will affirm it.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

ten points for ravenclaw!

Vacation message just received after sending an e-mail to a certain newly-former colleague of mine at Madison:
The rumors that have undoubtedly reached you by now are, by and large, correct. I have not enrolled in school this term; instead, with my two best friends I am off to fulfill the final wishes of my mentor--to search for and destroy a set of objects of incomparable evil.

So I thought we should start in the New Jersey-New York area. Because of the various shield charms we will need to place over our camp to obscure ourselves from the prying eyes of our enemies, I will have only intermittent email contact for the next three weeks or so. Please forgive me and tune in to secret radio stations for news of our progress.

If you are writing about a problem in regard to my previous capacity as head boy (e.g., office space, teaching assistantships, creatures or ghosts living in the second floor men’s room), please contact the headmistress or the following:

[e-mail addresses of the Chair, Associate Chair, and Assistant to the Chair]

Courage my friends! I hope to see you safe and sound on the other end of things.

i love the part where samuel l. jackson says he's had it with these motherbothering snakes on this motherbothering plane

So, part of the detritus of my working-class rural roots is that I have a pottymouth. Actually, having a congenital prudish streak--and having been raised right (hi, Mom!)--I did not use profanity at all, ever, until about eighth grade. Then there was all kinds of peer pressure that I finally gave into, and then the floodgates (f***gates?) were open.

I am less profane-prolix nowadays than I used to be. Still, I've been feeling I should cut down further.

I heard a friend say "Oh, bother!" recently in a context where I would have said "Oh, holy [expletive deleted] purple [expletive deleted] [expletive deleted]!" And I decided this would be central to my new effort at cussreduction: substituting "bother" for the principal profanity. Unanticipated bonus: that it doesn't really work in many contexts infuses a bemusement that helps deflate the negative affect prompting my launching the profanity in the first place.

(A curious fact of my combination of prudishness and pottymouth is that there are some, commonly considered as more mild, words I have an involuntary scrunch reaction to whenever I hear. The other four-letter F-word, the one that appears in the new Harry Potter book, I can't really bring myself to say. And almost all slang terms for body parts I never use as actually referring to their respective body part; excepting the posterior, I always use exactly the same terms for body parts that are used in standard high-school textbooks.)

Monday, August 06, 2007

if you were rudy guiliani, which of these would you bring up with your daughter first?

guiliani's daughter
(rudy guiliani's daughter's facebook profile. slate story here.)

1. Having your 17-year-old daughter join a group on Facebook dedicated to electing someone besides you to be President of the United States?

2. Having your 17-year-old daughter select both "Random play" and "Whatever I can get" for the "Looking for:" question on her public Facebook profile?

Not from this per se, but I just cannot imagine social conservatives working up loads of enthusiasm for stepping in a voting booth for Guiliani. And wasn't it the Evangelical turnout machine that was supposed to be a main cause of losing the last two elections? So, the Democrats should have a good matchup against Guiliani, unless, well, they nominate somebody who social conservatives viscerally hate. But, surely Democrats won't do that?

(Apparently parenthood is today's theme on JFW.)

it has always seemed to me that one of the main things that would be fun about having two kids is getting to do experiments on them

Robert Frank, Falling Behind, page 54:
I came to this view in part because of an experiment I did years ago with my two oldest sons when they were five and seven years old. The experiment took three days. On day one, I poured each of them a full glass of orange juice. On day two, I poured each only half a glass. Then, on day three, I poured David (then age seven) seven-eighths of a glass and Jason (then age five) only three-quarters of a glass. (I am not sure that a human subjects committee would approve this experiment today.)

You can guess what happened. On the first two days, each drank his juice without comment. In particular, neither asked on day two why he'd gotten only half as much as the day before. But things played out differently on day three. Jason looked first at his own glass, then over at his brother's, then back at his own, his face registering growing signs of distress. It was obvious that he was struggling not to react. But finally he blurted out, "That's not fair; he always gets more than me."

Sunday, August 05, 2007

and perhaps they still are

New York Times website, right now:

reminder: asa blogger extravaganza

The ASA NYC blogger get-together, a.k.a. YearlyRojas, is Saturday at 6PM, with the present plan to proceed from the Hilton Lobby. I have misgivings about this plan, as I don't quite get how people who are a little later are going to figure out where we are, but I am passive-aggressive in these misgivings, choosing just to state them publicly rather than act toward any kind of alternative. Anyway, you're invited. You? You. Fabio is offering to buy a drink to people who have pre-ordered his book. Dan is offering to buy a drink to anyone who can name a Kiss song that is not on his iPod. I am offering to thank anyone who pre-orders my drinks.

Also, Tuesday 8:30 am, at an as yet undisclosed location in the Hilton, "Blogs as a Forum for Public Sociology," including Hargittai, Healy, Uggen, Freese, and two people I don't know. Somebody should bring bagels.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

baby got bell

From NYT magazine story about anti-immigrant sentiment in an Illinois town:
A lot of my constituents have brought the question to me: What is he hiding?” Sigwalt told me. “I don’t want to get my butt in a ringer, but I wonder what ICE” — the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency — “would find if they went in there.”
Do the NYT copyeditors really not know the word "wringer"? Anyway, "butt in a wringer" is definitely one of those phrases from back in my hometown that I seem not to hear much around Harvard. But what would "butt in a ringer" mean?

website error, or interesting joke?


anne hathaway likes to keep her private life private

CNN's photo caption: Anne Hathaway likes to keep her private life private.

P.S. I don't actually know who Anne Hathaway is. But didn't Tom have a story arc about a photo of her? (pause to Google) Yes, he did. I think when it was going on I thought he was talking about the woman from The Beverly Hillbillies.

new signature file quote candidate: especially resonant for bloggers?

"The ultimate scarce resource in life is the willingness of other people to pay attention to us." -- Robert Frank, Falling Behind, p. vii.

Friday, August 03, 2007

have $500 and reasonable social connections? well, then, you could be a proud owner of your very own asa section-in-formation!

From a mass e-mail sent to the Wisconsin sociology listserv:

WE need 100 people *WHO ARE CURRENT MEMBERS OF ASA* who are willing to
support our petition to the Committee on Sections----or our petition
will not be considered. We have well over 100 people who indicated that
they support the section-in-formation, but the problem is that many are
not current ASA members. [...]

*If you are already an ASA member who has indicated support, how can
you help*?

Approach colleagues, friends, grad school buddies or graduate
students who are ASA members and ask if they will support this...
(Or, if you have grad students are not members, convince
your chair that they should be and get them signed up
pronto.) Depending upon how much this is worth to you, and if you can
afford it, offer to pay their section dues [$5-10/yr] for them for two years.
All we need right now is their names--no money. Frankly, at this point I
would pay their section dues in order to get this thing off the ground.
(Yes, I will).
I understand that more sections = more money for ASA, regardless of where the money comes from. Still, does anybody feel good about these open listserv requests for recruiting "grad school buddies" with zero interest in a topic to sign up for a new section and have other people pay their dues for the two years it takes to get the section started (at which point they drop out)? Is there any integrity whatsoever to the process of forming and maintaining sections at this point?

This message also bothers me because the author later writes, "I am not trying to plug ASA membership.," and seems to think it's an abomination that ASA requires that the people who count toward becoming an ASA section be ASA members. Sections-in-formation take ASA resources beyond what they raise in dues. Besides, if ASA membership isn't important, why is becoming an ASA section so important?

And, what's with the part about getting chairs to have grad students sign up? Are there departments that pay for their graduate students to be ASA members?

Update: Instructions on how to form your own ASA section are here.

oh, you flatter me, you silly, silly, spam-minx!


Could you be the one?

sex, lies, dogfighting, and videotape

Somebody asked me if I was ever going to write a post about the Michael Vick dogfighting scandal, given my ongoing dilettantish interest in Animals and Society. But a NYT column today seems to have it right:
“I think we are a forgiving people and a sports-loving people,” Lapchick said. “We have the potential to forgive a lot of athletes who do stupid things, or at least the sports they play.”

But, he added, “I don’t think society is going to forgive Michael Vick, unless the charges prove wrong.”
It's perhaps one of the more valuable criminal prosecutions in recent memory, as it has provided an unambiguous signal throughout American society regarding public sentiment for a crime about which there was otherwise much ambiguity. I take as the main evidence of ambiguity that companies with which Vick had endorsement deals at first weren't sure how to handle the situation, and now they can't get far enough away from him. I'm usually skeptical of the deterrent effect of "make an example of him" prosecutions, but I conjecture that this will have a real deterrent effect on dogfighting going forward.

I do think it's interesting that there are all kinds of ways that a football player could murder someone and have a much greater chance for public redemption than Michael Vick has. I think what makes the Vick crime so hard to imagine forgiveness is not just how much people love their dogs, but the way the scope and duration of the operation he bankrolled seems to bespeak a fundamental rottenness of core character, not the kind of thing to be resolved with a tearful televised apology or some anger management classes. Or jail time, I suspect.

Also: speaking of crimes that are unquestionably "bad" but ambiguous exactly "how bad" in the eyes of society, word from Madison a few weeks ago was that the neighbor of a friend of mine was arrested for having secretly videotaped himself having sex with women he was dating over the past five years (with no intent to distribute; the tapes were found in connection with a police search for other reasons). I think he was a graduate student--just so we're clear, not in sociology--and, according to the news story, he certainly gave the arresting officers a graduate student-ly explanation of his actions:
"It's funny, I never thought about asking anybody (for permission)," the complaint says he told police. "It stems from a sense of impermanence of relationships. ... I have the feeling like they aren't going to last. It lends itself to making the videotapes. The emotional need I have is to have a record."
(And saving letters and gifts apparently just wasn't enough.) His court date was set for July 30, but there hasn't been any follow-up story in the paper about what happened. I wanted to see what kind of punishment somebody would get for this crime, as I'll admit I genuinely don't know what I think an appropriate sentence would be. Interestingly, the maximum possible sentence for his crime is a jail sentence nine times longer than the maximum sentence possible for Michael Vick (45 years versus 6).

Thursday, August 02, 2007

this paper is really good! and so courteous for how it is double-spaced and stapled! i need to alert the pikes right away!

My first day not being a Wisconsin faculty member, and I'm the recipient of a mass e-mail the likes of which I never before received:
Dear University of Wisconsin-Madison Faculty,

I am a student at the University that you as a collective make so great. I humbly ask you as the mentors of this great institution to recommend individuals that you have seen excel in the classroom for entry into our brotherhood.

Our fraternity Pi Kappa Alpha is dedicated to taking men of integrity and principle and turning them into scholars, leaders, athletes, and gentlemen. Many of the men whom we pledge have already excelled in scholastics, leadership, athletics or courtesy. These pledges happen to be the most active and successful in our chapter. Imagine what a group of your recommended students could accomplish as a collective.

We live by our creed. We do not haze our pledges. Our rush period is alcohol free. We have the deepest respect for all people no matter their religion, orientation, race, or creed. We contend that the greater the diversity in our chapter the more we can learn from each other and help each other grow.

The Beta Xi chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha believes that the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Madison would be the most qualified to identify men who excel in scholastic, leadership, athletic, and chivalrous situations. We would be greatly honored if you could send the name and email address of each undergraduate you want to recommend.
According to Wikipedia, Jon Stewart was a Pike. Then again, so was Karl Rove. When I started at the University of Iowa, the Pikes seemed the most prestigious house, but then had some scandal involving cocaine and other conduct that resulted in them expelling many of their members. At Madison, campus police had a security campaign that put posters all over with the slogan "Badger Eyes Are Watching You." If I was back in Madison now, I would have my own badger eyes on the lookout for chivalrous contact so I could pass those names along. I'm sure in my absence other faculty are now eagerly embarking on doing the same.

Is it common for fraternities elsewhere to send a mass message to faculty asking for recommendations? I've never heard of it before.

harry potter and the doubly helix

I'd always presumed muggle-born wizards in the Harry Potter books were the result of a genetic mutation. J.K. Rowling is answering all kinds of questions now about the series, and she says I'm wrong:
Katie Mosher: How exactly do muggleborns receive magical ability?

J.K. Rowling: Muggle-borns will have a witch or wizard somewhere on their family tree, in some cases many, many generations back. The gene re-surfaces in some unexpected places.
This is very perplexing, because magic ability otherwise gives all indications of being an autosomal dominant gene (get the gene from one parent, and you have the trait), but now she's talking about it like it is recessive and so can just lurk around unexpressed in your family tree for generations. Harry had a muggle-born mother, so if the gene was recessive, he'd have had only a 50% chance of being a wizard. Same thing with each Hermione and Ron's two children (assuming Ron is really the real father; if, as is at least as likely, Harry is the real father, then the kids would have only a 25% chance of being a wizard.) There are no indications in the book that when people marry muggle-born wizards they consider there to be a 50% chance they'll have a squib kid.

I feel cheated. I feel like the Harry Potter books are no longer scientifically realistic.

Ugh, I've only had this post up a few minutes and already a friend has e-mailed to correct me. I feel like a disgrace to Ravenclaw. Obviously, if the gene is recessive, Harry needs two copies, and so he has the same probability of having wizard spawn as any other wizard, and squibhood is the mutation. (Squibs who breed with a slumming wizard would have a 50% chance of having a wizard child.) Rowling's still not right, though. The muggle-born wizard has to have a wizard somewhere on each side of the family tree.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

i know every day is the first day of the rest of my life, but today is even more so

resignation templates
(resignation letter templates available in Office 2007)

As of midnight, I am no longer a tenured member of the faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Madison or a Robert Wood Johnson Scholar in Health Policy at Harvard University.

Regarding Madison, I originally included the sentence "I hope to God I know what I'm doing" in my letter of resignation, but then deleted it. And you don't believe me when I say I've grown up a lot these last two years. Today I sent an e-mail to my chair that I realize now was my last bit of official faculty correspondence. The e-mail included my telling her that she ought to start a blog (check out here and here for examples of why I think this).

Regarding the RWJ fellowship, it didn't turn out like I thought it was, although that in itself was a useful lesson about certain tendencies of mine to be unrealistic. I am certainly glad to have done it. I am also glad to be going back to an academic department, and I am glad to be returning to the Midwest.

My original e-mail telling Northwestern's chair I was accepting their offer concluded, dorkily perhaps, with the paragraph:
I'm sitting here now in my office at Harvard remembering how I once took a class in which an assignment was to write a short story that started with the sentence "This is going to be fun." Few e-mails I will send in my life mark a beginning as clearly as this one, and so I'll close it with: This is going to be fun.
I hope to God I am right about this. I am optimistic that I am.

Update: I finished a draft of the preferences paper that has been crowded out other activities for too long now, so it's turned out to be quite a good start to the rest of my life.