jeremy freese's weblog

Friday, April 30, 2004

reader poll: if there is a grade strike, what will the parents say? 

I have talked to a few TAs who are as leery of the grade strike as I am. However, I also had a conversation earlier with a TA who was enthusiastic about it. I asked the person how they thought a grade strike would result in the TAA getting a better deal from the state. The primary scenario the person provided was that, if a grade strike began, parents would start calling university officials and state legislators and demand that they settle the strike.

I don't know what to think about the plausibility of this, so I decided to leave it up to readers. So, let's imagine: The TAs do not turn in grades. An irate parent from Appleton or Peshtigo or Shawno calls a state legislator. "My kid hasn't gotten her grades yet because her TAs haven't turned them in!" the parent says, angrily, "I think you should ____________ !"

posted by jeremy at 5:53 PM | link |   

hey dorotha: were the splinters just inside your head? 

I link to Dorotha's weblog last night and excerpts from her post end up on one of the faculty-weblogs-from-the-other-side-of-Bascom-hill. But, in the postscript to her post, Ann seems sure that when Dorotha was talking about splinters, she meant "emotional splinters." However emotionally splintered Ms. Harried may be, I think she was talking about physical, little-bits-of-wood splinters. I'm waiting for her to e-mail with the answer.

Update, next day: Dorotha responds in her blog. Answer: Real splinters. Bascom Hill Northside Bloggers 1, Southsiders 0.
posted by jeremy at 1:05 AM | link |   

manson high school class of '89: where are they now? 

(my hometown [starred] and surrounding area)

I got an e-mail about the plans for my 15th high school class reunion today. I haven't gone to either of the earlier class reunions, but I'm thinking I might drive the five hours back there for this one. Although the reunion dinner, in true Rural Iowa fashion, has three entree options, none of which are vegetarian.

The organizer attached a spreadsheet that had the addresses for the 38 alums (out of a class of 39) that he was able to find. Turns out that the residential destinations of the members of my graduating class can be broken neatly into thirds. Here's where we ended up, with some blue symbols of sociological significance to be explained below:

Stayed within 25 miles of my hometown (34%):

Ft. Dodge, Iowa
Ft. Dodge, Iowa
Ft. Dodge, Iowa
Ft. Dodge, Iowa
Ft. Dodge, Iowa
Knierim, Iowa
Manson, Iowa
Manson, Iowa
Manson, Iowa
Manson, Iowa
Manson, Iowa (cousin of jf)
Manson, Iowa
Manson, Iowa

Note: Fort Dodge is a small city of about 25,000 that is 20 miles from Manson. It represents the closest thing to urban life within an hour's drive of my hometown. One of the big things to do in high school was to drive to Fort Dodge and then drive up and down this one street. Fort Dodge is not just an eyesore but a full-sensory-organ-sore. Spend fifteen minutes within its city limits and you have to take a hot shower of at least that long to wash the wasted life in the air off your skin.

Stayed in Iowa, but more than 25 miles from my hometown: (32%)

Algona, Iowa *
Ames, Iowa
Ankeny, Iowa
Burlington, Iowa
Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Clive, Iowa
Decorah, Iowa *
Des Moines, Iowa
Des Moines, Iowa
Grimes, Iowa
Indianola, Iowa *
Mason City, Iowa (another cousin)

Out of Iowa (34%):

Branson, Missouri *
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Fort Campbell, Kentucky (second cousin)
Ft. Collins, Colorado
Fulton, Missouri
Lauderdale, Minnesota *
Lawrence, Kansas *
MTN. Home Air Force Base, Idaho
Madison, Wisconsin *
Norfolk, Nebraska *
Owatonna, Minnesota
Pembroke Pines, Florida *
Valrico, Florida *

* The ten blue asterisks denote the people who graduated in the top 10 in my graduating class.** (Yes, I remember. Keep in mind that I went to kindergarten with 2/3 of these people, so we went through thirteen years of sorting and tracking together.) Presumably you don't need to statistical training to see the pattern between how people did in school then and where they are living now.

** I was third. I was on the path toward valedictory status until the last semester of my senior year, when I began showing up 20 or more minutes late every day to first-period calculus, spoiling my 4.0. I already had my scholarship to the University of Iowa, and so didn't care. That semester I also got an F in chorus because I quit going. The only reason I was in chorus at all was so I could be in the school musical, where I was traditionally bestowed with the role of the largest non-singing male part. I was told the F in chorus would be on my permanent record--yes! my permanent record***--and assume it is, although fortunately the stigma of it has not spoiled any subsequent employment or other opportunities for me, except perhaps my audition to be one of the yodelers for that one game on The Price is Right.

*** In the interests of nostalgia and full disclosure about my permanent record, I should not that this isn't the only F on it. I also stopped doing the pointless assignments in spelling one semester in junior high and was given an F for that. This was the same semester that I finished eighth in Iowa's state spelling bee. I'm no good at busywork, but, believe me, even in my direst moments of intellectual self-doubt, I still know that I can spell, regardless of what my permanent record my suggest.
posted by jeremy at 12:40 AM | link |   

Thursday, April 29, 2004

scattered to the cyberwinds 

Grrr. I just wrote a post, taking the better part of an hour to compose, that was lost when my DSL connection went down. I was pleased with it, even, as opposed to the mild self-loathing or at least self-consciousness that not infrequently accompanies hitting "Post". But, still, I'm not going to try to reconstruct it.
posted by jeremy at 1:27 AM | link |   

tales from the barricades 

A couple of the sociology department graduate student bloggers have provided reports from the picket lines (
here and here). Sounds gruesome. Meanwhile, here is an example of the press releases that are being sent out by Republican legislators. Regardless of whether actually going through with the strike ends up actually achieving any additional benefits beyond what the TAA was offered by the state before the strike, I certainly admire the courage and perseverence of the students who were out there all day long, especially those that were out there even though they had voted against the strike.

Of course, being a faculty observer of all this, but not that terribly far removed from my own graduate school experience, makes me wonder what I would have done had something like this happened where and when I went to graduate school. I am fairly positive that I would have earlier voted for the strike but then voted against it at the final vote. I think I would have shown up for the picket lines, although I wouldn't have been very plucky. I might have volunteered to be a lone person standing by some side door in the back of the building that never gets used anyway, or something like that. I doubt I would have been a very good chanter, except maybe I could make up chants for other people to say. But after this point, if I wasn't an enthusiastic supporter of the strike myself, I suspect the thrall of solidarity would end. If I had been a TA in a situation like this, no way would I grade strike, especially if I felt like a lot of the people who were more supportive of it were not responsible for grades themselves or were otherwise better insulated from the consequences than myself (which is suggested in one of the abovementioned student posts).

Indeed, I have to confess, if things really do move ahead to a grade strike, I will probably be begging various TAs in 7110 and thereabouts not to go along with it. So I suppose this is a forewarning, then; please know that I have no motivation other than that I will likely be much worried for you.

(Incidentally, at Indiana, where I went to graduate school, an argument that the department has persistently used to deter--not always effectively--sociology graduate students from being more active in the effort to organize a union is to point out how much better the sociology graduate students have it than the graduate students in other departments at Indiana, saying essentially that unionizing might make the average graduate student at IU better off but would make the graduate students in sociology worse off. Sociology at IU was on the same floor as history, and you could just see from the withered lot of those students that sociology was much better off than it could be. Anyway, at least while I was there, this argument, despite some individual dissension, was remarkably effective in preventing anything from getting going in sociology. I have no idea whether it is still being used at Indiana, and, if so, whether it still works wonders.)

(Incidentally incidentally, the issue while I was at Indiana that did get the graduate students somewhat stirred up toward mobilizing was the awful health insurance plan we had. There were these small yellow cardboardish-plastic signs nailed to Bloomington offering health insurance for whatever itinerant pedestrians were sufficiently dawdling and squinty enough to read them; this was the same company the state contracted to provide the graduate student health insurance.)
posted by jeremy at 12:22 AM | link |   

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

rise and shine 

I just woke up after getting like two hours' sleep. I had a nightmare that caused me to bolt awake, so there's not much hope of promptly returning to sleep. Not a zombie-monsters chasing me Scooby-Doo! episode sort of nightmare,* but basically a nightmare in which I was having a relatively realistic conversation with my parents in their home about their preparations for old age. (Granted, their basement was flooding in the dream in a way that wasn't very realistic, which gave the conversation extra urgency, but otherwise the coversation was relatively realistic.)

My parents basically have no preparations for old age. Given the recent career connection to the world of aging research, I get to see these various books available on Successful Aging that show these pictures on the cover of happy-upper-middle-class eighty-somethings playing tennis somewhere sunny. My parents are so unprotected against what the aging process can do to them compared to these privileged-tennis-playing-cover-of-successful-aging-books-couples that it is akin to the difference between those who live in tarpaper shanties and those who live in brick houses as a impeding major storm looms on the horizon. They live in an unsaleable and senescing house in the middle of nowhere with stairs that my mother already has arthritic pain navigating, and their financial reserves are probably less than what I have even now (which, as anyone who knows how non-thrifty I am knows, is not much). And let's not even get into the matter of how my mother bore six children and how I presently appear to be The (Best? Only?) Hope for any kind of substantial child-to-parent financial intertransfer in the years ahead if/when one needs to be made.

Sorry to be so whiny on the weblog. Obviously, everyone has some situation or other that nags at them. It's something I don't really think about that much, but it lurks around in the back of my mind, ready for example to pounce to prominence sometimes when all I am trying to do is freaking get some sleep. I don't even know what made it salient enough in my mind to be the object of tonight's dream.

* Speaking of Scooby Doo, I wonder if the graduate student strike wasn't just a two-day walkout but stretched on indefinitely, if the University would eventually conscript some unfortunate powerless junior faculty member to dress in a dog costume and go around campus as Scabby-Doo, the lovable dog who would try to show how fun crossing picket lines can be.
posted by jeremy at 6:18 AM | link |   

because i am dorky, and because it is my heart* 

I'm presently in a nostalgic mood, trying to make Top 10 list of the most fondly remembered nicknames-of-endearment that I've attached to various of those with whom I have been "involved" over the past decade.* I'm not sure what it is that causes me to search for all sorts of alternative ways of referring to The Involved rather than just their names, and I'm worried that the practice, once thought sweet, will come to be regarded with increasing suspicion as a result of the wanton nicknaming of inner-circle-members by George W. Bush. In alphabetical order, the ones of my list, which I suppose also gives yet-another-angled view on how weird and dorky I am:

1. Amanda This, Amanda That
2. Argentina
3. Brave Sparrow
4. Bunky
5. Hammacher Schlemmer
6. Jellybean
7. Mirah-bella
8. Red Hornet
9. Sharkbait
10. Trouble

* A Joyce Carol Oates reference, for the uninitiated. Note that JCO and I were only briefly "involved" and that she was quite insistent that I call her "Joyce" or "Jacko."

** To be eligible, a nickname had to have been used at least an estimated 100 times.
posted by jeremy at 3:00 AM | link |   

norma jay, #5 

While my earlier post waxed happily and proudly about the Wisconsin sociology graduate studentry, one student in the department (whose name, Dorotha, I don't recognize) is using her own weblog to employ rectal-based insults toward some unnamed intradisciplinary peers.
posted by jeremy at 2:46 AM | link |   

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

norma jay, #4 

I have been trying to think of when was the last time I have been in a church basement and the occasion hasn't been that someone has died. Anyway, today that streak ended when I taught my methods class in the church basement of the St. Paul's Catholic Center. The class was boring, even by my own soporific standards, but the students seemed good troupers about it. They were also good about getting out the folding chairs and tables to arrange the room--while I arranged my table and RV equipment and my podium, which was an upside-down cardboard box I found in the back room--and they conscientiously put everything away neatly. Many of the striking students had their union regalia on, and one student did one of the picket line chants fo me (which posited that if professors weren't going to support the strike they should "get off their asses / and teach their own damn classes**). On the whole, I would be lying if I said it wasn't sorta fun.

It also affirmed this gratitude-journal-like feeling that I've had over the past week, which is that even though there are some graduate students in our department who I don't really care for (mostly because they don't seem to like me at all***), a wonderful thing about being in a program so large is that there are so many really good and engaging and interesting students about, with such diverse interests and backgrounds and ideas.

* The traditional Iowa way of doing a funeral is to have the service in the church and the mournful lunch afterward in the basement. The lunch always has at least one bowl of scalloped potatoes and ham, made by one older woman in the church. To this day, I cannot hear the phrase "scalloped potatoes and ham" without it reminding me of death.

** Having no TA this semester, I would note that I am indeed off my ass and teaching my own class. I was talking to a friend this week whose at another university and she is teaching an undergraduate class roughly half the size of my graduate class, and she has a TA. I'm not really complaining about that, as I don't know what I would have a TA for that class do if I had one anyway; the only advantage of it would be if it allowed the department to fund another person.

*** One thing I will admit that I was not prepared for when I started this professoring-gig is how there could be students who would have an almost immediately dislike for you seemingly based less on anything about you per se but more about what you are perceived to represent within the larger academic ecosystem. That's perhaps not clear what I mean, but I'm not going to be more specific.
posted by jeremy at 11:02 PM | link |   

i have to admit, while i am supportive of the strike, my subversive new shoes are more enthusiastic 

posted by jeremy at 4:18 AM | link |   

capital exercise 

(my side-by-side desktop setup I had going in the RV this afternoon; the telephone book in the background is actually playing a central role to the configuration of machines, I'll leave it as a puzzle for technologically inclined readers to try to figure out what)

In a burst of physical fitness enthusiasm yesterday, I rode my bike to campus. And it only cost me $60. On my way to campus, I noted that the bike seemed like it really needed its spring tune-up, and so I dropped it with the the guys at Budget Bicycle Shop (suspected slogan: "All Employees Completely Stoned, All The Time, And Yet We Do Competent Work"). Expected cost: $45. Which meant I was going to have to find a way home. I could walk, I suppose, but that would require forlornly-sedentary me to allow my body to be possessed by some demon ambulatorily-motivated inhabiting-spirit.

Anyway, I decided that what I really needed to do, especially with the strike being imminent, was to move my work computer and flat-screen monitor to my home (as I've been doing so much more work at home and that computer was maybe 5x slower for using Stata with large datasets). So this required me to take a cab. Cost : $15.*

So this afternoon I had two of the five computers now sitting around the RV (three desktops, two laptops) actually hooked up and going, as I transferred files and such from one computer to the other. I'm not sure which computer I'm going to move back to my office, or what I'm going to do about a monitor up there. Maybe I'll just start using my laptop up there.

* The fare was actually $11, I tipped $4. I over-tip cab drivers, a holdover from whenever I would take cabs in grad school in Bloomington, where the cab drivers (there was only one company) worked mandatory 72 hour shifts each week (12 hour shifts with one day off) for minimum wage and time-and-a-half overtime. I always use Union Cab here in Madison, and even while the drivers are more handsomely paid, the tipping habit remains.
posted by jeremy at 4:08 AM | link |   

norma jay, #3 

The teaching assistant's union decided to go ahead with the strike tomorrow. So my class tomorrow will be at the St. Paul's University Catholic Center (pictured above). Thanks to the beneficience of the Hausers, I have obtained a portable LCD projector and portable screen so that my class can be just as PowerPointilicious as if we were having it at our usual venue.
posted by jeremy at 12:55 AM | link |   

Monday, April 26, 2004

norma jay, #2 

A reader e-mails from Belle Epoch, NE to say: "I hope the strike goes, um, however you would like it to go; I'm not really clear [from your weblog] which side you are on. Perhaps you are not at liberty to discuss your personal views in a public forum, such as your weblog." A couple of other people have also e-mailed to ask for my "stance" on the strike.

So, here is the official JFW position on the matter:

1. JFW is for the teaching assistants getting every penny from the state they are able to get.

2. JFW deeply dislikes whenever faculty members suggest the low pay of teaching assistants is warranted by their "apprentice" status. He deeply dislikes this because (a) it seems to privilege one type of graduate student who is best able to afford such a situation (namely, a healthy, childless student in their mid-twenties with a middle-class parental safety net) and (b) many teaching assistants are thrown into their position with very little instruction/supervision from their supervising faculty member (myself, when I've had TAs, included) and so the word "apprentice" seems either delusionary or disingenuous.

3. I am not going to cross the picket line. If there is a strike, I've arranged to hold my Tuesday class in the Catholic Student Center on State Street. (I did come from a union household, after all, and in an industry where some of the most ugly union-busting in the US in recent history took place, in ways that have directly affected my family's livelihood to this day.)

4. That I am not going to cross the picket line has nothing to do with whether I agree with the strike. I wouldn't cross the picket line for a two-day strike even if I disagreed with it. It's only two days, and it's not like I'm not more productive working from home anyway.

5. I can't say what I would do if the strike was planned to be more than just a two-day strike. My guess is that if it was to be a two-week strike, I would still not cross. The issue of whether I specifically agreed with the strike would obviously loom much larger in my decision calculus if the strike was longer.

6. Although I think they were right to agitate to strike, I think the union should accept the state's latest offer and not strike. Or, if they do the two-day walkout, they should still not follow it up with the planned grade strike. My worry is that if things reach a sufficiently drastic step that the Republican legislature mobilizes on the issue, they could end up (much?) worse off. From my contacts at the statehouse, many of the Republican state legislators sound so irrational and rabid that who knows what they would do if it became a cause celebre. That said, I do tend toward the panicky, and I have a long and painful track record as a poor and overconciliatory negotiator.

7. I will admit that I have said that if, after I've gone to the trouble of scheduling an alternative venue for my Tuesday class, students don't show up for it, that I will not only cross the picket line on Wednesday, but cross it hundreds of times, pacing back and forth and back and forth perpendicular to whatever picket line is manned by graduate students enrolled in my class. But, no, I am not serious about actually doing this.
posted by jeremy at 7:26 AM | link |   

Sunday, April 25, 2004

a reader e-mails: so, have you checked for vomit in your car yet? 

Yes. No vomit!
posted by jeremy at 6:26 PM | link |   

the sort of thing you're asking for when you decide you need to go to campus at 1am on the weekend to fetch your stata manuals 

About two weeks ago, I came out of the RV one morning to see birdshit on my new car.* I thought I should compose some kind of morose blog post about this, how it was effectively the end of innocence for my largest capital purchase to date. A rite of passage that automobiles go through on their way to losing their novelty.

But I thought this would be a little melodramatic, and, anyway, I had my car washed before I could take my digital camera out and get the snapshot of said birdshit that would really be requisite for writing a post. Besides, I thought, who knows what further adventures await that I could file under the heading of breaking in my new car.

Tonight, I'm working in the RV around 1AM and decide I really need the Stata Graphics Manual that is in my office. Really, I think, I need to bring all my Stata manuals back to the RV, and while I'm at it I should also move some other books from the RV to my office. So I lug the books out to my car--discovering that it is raining quite earnestly--and throw them into the backseat and head up to campus. It ends up being a convoluted route to campus because Charter St. has been blocked off for construction.

When I get there, I park in the closest spot to the social science building, and I start bounding toward the building when I realize that I've forgotten the books in my backseat. I walk back to get them, and I see this couple are walking slowly up the sidewalk maybe 20 yards from my car. Freshmen, maybe; sophomores, tops. As I get to my car, the guy calls out "Excuse me, sir."

I turn. "Um," he says, "Is there any way you could give us a ride home? She's kinda sick." I walk toward them and look at her. She's kinda drunk is what she is. At sort of the middling-woozy-walk-very-slowly level of drunkenness.

"[street name]. It's on the other side of the stadium." Meaning that, at their pace, it would have taken them probably forty-five minutes to get home. In the rain. So, of course:
"Yeah, sure," I say. I deliberate whether there is any way I could tell them to wait in my car while I run in and get my freaking Stata manuals, so I don't have to turn around and drive back up here. I decide not. She gets in the backseat, he gets in front. They had the lovely-overpowering-smoke-and-beer smell that is the badge of a night spent in Madison bars.

As soon as I pull out of the parking lot, she starts to make the kinda-coughing-kinda-gurgling sound a drunk person makes when they are on the precipice of puking. Dear God, I think, she is going to upchuck all over the upholstery. I drive them toward the stadium with some haste. When I stop at the red light on University just past Luther's blues, the gurgling gets more immediate and I realize that the arrival of Ralph Malph is at hand. She opens the door and leans out and starts retching onto the street. She does this again. The car behind us blinks their headlights at us, for who knows what reason. Perhaps some expression of collegiate solidarity, or maybe just taunting.

She closes the door. The light turns green. She says she's okay, and so I continue on our way. I turn the corner at Breese and start going by the sidestreets by the stadium.

"Where's the turn?"
"You can, uh, just drop us here. We'll be fine."
"Why don't we just get you where you need to go?" This ends up being only a couple blocks off Breese.

The guy tries to hand me like three one-dollar bills for gas, which I wave off. The girl actually seems to have revived as a result of having thrown up from (in? on?) my backseat. "Thanks," she says, "I was good." I'm hoping by that she means she managed to expel all her vomit outside my vehicle.

I drove back to campus and got my manuals and threw them in my frontseat, and then I drove home. I didn't even want to look in the backseat to see if there was any vomit back there, as I didn't want to deal with it if there was. I'll do that tomorrow. It didn't smell like puke as I was driving home, which I took as a good sign.

* Normally, I use the term feces to refer to feces, finding "shit" a little too coarse and "poop" a little too puerile. But, with birdshit, you pretty much have to call it for what it is.
posted by jeremy at 4:57 AM | link |   

Saturday, April 24, 2004

some of what you've been missing 

I recently had an exchange with someone else with a weblog where I said that a downside of being a professor with a weblog is that probably 90% of the most interesting or amusing things that happen to one are actually off-limits for posting, for one reason or another, as are a comparable percentage of potential whimsical observations one could make about particular others.

This got me thinking, in the spirit of a never-commenced artistic project from a long-ago post, what have been the most compellingly/intriguingly bloggable bits of drama from the last few months that are not remotely eligible for actually presenting on my weblog. Of course, since I can't share them, I can't share them. But here are the titles of the Top 5 episodes that spring to mind:

1. "A shocking book recommendation."
2. "Even if they said it could be informal, your tenure memo CANNOT be written in Crayola."
3. "Great. Just what I needed. An assassin."
4. "You don't understand. LAWYERS are involved."
5. "I am neither chunky, nor a rabbit."
posted by jeremy at 11:41 PM | link |   

making myself a guinea pig, albeit a potentially wealthy psychic guinea pig 

I have been presented with a remarkable simultaneous scientific and financial opportunity. A mysterious envelope arrived in my mailbox, postmarked Tashkent, OH. Inside was a assiduously clipped full-page newspaper advertisement. The banner of which was:

Am I suited for this? I'm certainly skeptical. I have played the lottery (granted, only when the expected value of the ticket exceeds its cost--that is, when the jackpot has become so large from weeks of no winner that it's actually economically in one's interest to play).* I am always interested in advancing the cause of para-psycho-socio-economic research. I wouldn't mind winning up to $250,000.00 (and even much more). Sounds like I'm a good candidate.

The text of the newspaper advertisement included a detailed explanation of the new parapsychological breakthrough that would be tested in this experiment. The hypothesized method for making massive winnings a near certainty (not a matter of "luck", a matter of seizing the right "configuration of gain") involves the identification and specific of five factors unique to each prospective lottery player. This part of the ad succinctly explains the gist of it:

How much more convincing does one need? So I promptly filled out the form and sent it in.

I did fib on a few things to make it sound like I was more needy and motivated to participate than I actually am, as I don't want to be left out. I also made a couple of modifications to my birth time and birth place information, but only after doing some astronomical calculations in Stata and figuring out that it would not affect my five factor information for the purposes of this study. (And, after scanning the form to post here on the weblog, I whited out the address of the current parking place of the RV.)

I'll let the weblog know about the reply I receive. I'm also curious about what mailing lists sending this in will get me on. I should have inserted a middle initial or spelled my name differently (Jeremi?) so that I could track the mailing list consequences.

Wish me luck! Or, I mean, wish me configuration of gain! And wish me the knowledge of how to seize it!

* Not true! I have also twice bought a collective set of 10 lottery tickets for my family for drawings held over a weekend when we were all home.
posted by jeremy at 11:01 PM | link |   

(diet update) temporarily thwarted, but i remain determined 

I don't think the Cheese and Nut ... and Hot Chocolate diet is working. The scale would certainly not suggest progress (or, more accurately, regress). I don't know if it's the Hot Chocolate or the macadamia nuts that are ruining things. Perhaps the millennia of wisdom suggesting that macadamia nuts are not good diet food is, in fact, correct. Perhaps part of the problem is that it's hard to stop at just one macadamia nut. Or ten.

Plus, macadamia nuts are expensive, which reminds me of an exchange I had in Whole Foods yesterday. I buy the macadamia nuts there from their Bulk Foods Dispensing System, which means I press the lever to pour nuts out of a bin into a plastic bag, and then I take a twist tie and write the number corresponding to macadamia nuts on the twist tie for the cashier to enter as s/he weighs them.

Yesterday, my twist tie had fallen off and I didn't realize this until I was checking out. The cashier asked me if I remembered the number. I said what I thought was the macadamia nut number. The nuts rang up as $2.49 a pound. Macadamia nuts are like $13 a pound. I didn't notice this on the screen until he had finished scanning all my items and said the total.

"That can't be right. I must have given you the wrong number."
[looking at the monitor] "Macadamia nuts are way more expensive than $2.50 a pound. I must have misremembered the number."
Then, the guy behind me in line interjects: "Yes, macadamia nuts are quite expensive. If they were only $2.50 a pound I would get them much more often."

So then the cashier has to look up the number, and for the rest of the transaction he is giving me this deeply suspicious look, like he had caught me trying to cheat the Whole Foods Conglomerate out of their proper nut premium. I wanted to shout, "I was the one who called the error to your attention! Stop making me wish I had just kept my mouth shut and hightailed out of here with some ill-gotten nuts!"

Anyway, I don't know what I'm going to be doing food-wise now. Maybe trying to eat stuff that is generally agreed-upon as healthy and not high in calories, or something similarly radical. I don't know.
posted by jeremy at 5:27 PM | link |   

Friday, April 23, 2004

how to stop reading this weblog 

If you are reading this weblog and plan on continuing to do so, this post isn't really for you. You are cherished and, although you don't know it, all of your page views are being carefully tabulated by underlings that I have hired and you will soon be receiving your allotment of JFW Green Stamps in the mail, which will be redeemable for all kinds of vacation packages and durable goods.

In the nine months that this weblog has existed, a few times* people have become sufficiently disenchanted with or angered by it, or whatever, that they feel compelled to tell me they have stopped reading it. This is fine. However, the way at least a couple people have notified me of this is to e-mail that they are "boycotting" my weblog. People boycotted the Montgomery bus system in the famous beginnings of the Civil Rights movement. People boycott businesses that engage in ugly politics or ugly human rights violations (e.g., sweatshops) in manufacturing their products. Boycotting is a way of trying to influence the practices of a business by refusing to give them your money; although boycotts usually don't succeed, when they do they can be a valuable tool for achieving populist social change.

On the other hand, this weblog is, ultimately, just me and the dorky things I post from time to time. I know I use the organizational language of "JFW" and sometimes claim to have a staff and entourage, but that's supposed to be a reasonably transparent joke. Unlike many other weblogs, I don't have any kind of tracking or statistics service or whatever--the above sentence about green stamps was, again, a joke--so I don't really have any idea how many people, if any, read particular posts. I don't take anything with this weblog very seriously. I recognize that there are bloggers who do consider their weblogs very serious matters, but the general content of mine might suggest that I don't take it--or, for that matter, myself--too awfully seriously.

And so--and I really don't mean to offend anyone by this--if you do sometime feel compelled to let me know that some part of my weblog has turned you off so irreversibly and thoroughly that you'll never read it again, it's fine to e-mail and notify me of this, but you might consider using the phrase "quit reading" rather than "boycott" and reserve the latter term for resoluteness on matters more weighty than JFW.

I mean, and now I'm probably being more frank than I should be, but what's especially weird is to have someone declare they are "boycotting" the weblog because it is "narcissistic." In my mind, anybody who thinks of stopping reading my weblog as "boycotting" has blown my weblog way out of proportion, and then the person goes on to basically accuse me of having some grandiose sense of the place of my weblog in the world. This is akin to the pot calling the stainless steel kettle black. It's just a weblog, really!

* Three? Four? At least one person has done this twice.

Update, next day:A backstage-pass premium subscriber from Tashkent, OH e-mails to say: If i were one to put bumper stickers on my car, mine would read:





posted by jeremy at 10:59 PM | link |   

warning: this post can only be understood by other special or high-status people (or institutions) 

Various webloggers ensconced within the Madison Ivory Tower have recently complained about being called "narcissistic" by their peers (see posts, e.g., here and here). I have also had this charge levelled at me--or people with weblogs generally--since starting this weblog, including by one person who then went and began her own weblog(s). Just for reference, I have included below the actual DSM-IV criteria for diagnosing a person as having narcissistic personality disorder. My very first act upon starting a weblog was to write the introduction above, which offers its own take on Criterion #1. But which of the other four are supposedly so endemic to blogging?

Although I am pretty confident that (a) I don't have any personality disorder and (b) if I did, narcissistic is not the most likely one, I am now gamely trying to figure out how I would order the extent to which I could be accused of each of the symptoms below. I guess I would go with this order: (1), (4*), (9), (3), (2) -- and now we get into a battle among traits that I don't think describe me AT ALL, but for the sake of completeness -- (6), (8), (5), (7).
301.81 Narcissistic Personality Disorder

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

(1) has a grandiose sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements)

(2) is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love

(3) believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)

(4) requires excessive admiration

(5) has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations

(6) is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends

(7) lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others

(8) is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him or her

(9) shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes
* I once had a professor very jovially tell me in graduate school that he had seen a book in the children's section of a bookstore that he wanted to buy for me. The book was entitled something like Look What I Can Do! and on every page was a child doing something and the words "Look What I Can Do!". I wasn't sure exactly how I was supposed to take that.
posted by jeremy at 12:28 AM | link |   

Thursday, April 22, 2004

iTunes iNsomnia, early evening edition 

A weblog reader recently encouraged me to download "Light & Day/Reach for the Sun" by The Polyphonic Spree. As she warned me would happen, it's a song that I thought was completely cheesy the first couple of times I listened to it, and then before I knew it I had already listened to it 20 times (see my "Play Count" in the screenshot above for proof).* It's just so sunny!

I can imagine John Cusack standing in the pouring rain holding a boom box over his head playing that song in an effort to win back a girlfriend who has been abducted by a cult dedicated to positive thinking.

Actually, as you can also see from the screenshot, something about the crowd-chorus of "Light & Day" also caused me to decide to download Jay Z's "Hard Knock Life," which I did only because the original version from the Annie soundtrack was not available on iTunes.

* Actually, the play count on iTunes can underestimate the extent to which one has played a song, because it only counts songs if you play them all the way to the end. Someone with as short of an attention span as me will often switch to another song 2-3 minutes (or 20-30 seconds) in, which then won't be counted.
posted by jeremy at 11:34 PM | link |   

liberated from the social science building 

Today, I worked on my lecture from home. Then, a half hour before my class, I printed out my lecture, put my laptop in my bag, drove to campus, parked my car, and went to the building where my class is held. I set up my laptop and did my lecture (not even getting to the material on missing data that I had spent over two hours today figuring out). Then, when I was done with my lecture and answering questions afterward, I walked to my car and drove back to the RV.

This is the first time ever that I've taught without setting foot either before or after in my office in social science. I used to go up there every day and be there for more than 12 hours a day, every day. Now, I'm becoming increasingly comfortable work here from the RV. The only unfortunate thing about working here today is that I'm out of cheese and nuts--I should have stopped at Whole Foods on the drive home.
posted by jeremy at 8:17 PM | link |   

bury my heart at broken chair 

Ugh! I cannot believe I just broke my chair! Double ugh!
posted by jeremy at 1:18 AM | link |   

weblogs JFW cannot compete with, #5 

On February 7th, I noted the existence of the Hot Abercrombie Chick! weblog and noted that it seemed so conceptually perfect that it could be an intended piece of online performance art. I received flak from some readers for this, who thought it could only reflect something deeply paranoid and politically suspicious about my character that I could even propose such a thing. I since lost track of the HAC weblog, although I did conclude that she was probably not a hoax, even though she had done these various things that were quite consistent with hoax-hood. Ultimately, to have kept it going this long would have required a discipline far stronger than anyone could expect from someone doing it as a prank.

But anyway, now, ten weeks after my post, the world of weblogs is practically bursting with speculation that HAC is--who would have ever guessed it?--a hoax. See weblog posts here or here or here or here or here or here or here. This guy even ran her text through a computer program that counts use of "masculine" versus "feminine" words to determine the gender of the author (with "80% accuracy!" he brags), and then after the results came back "male," he went on to the following moronic flourish:
Look, I hate to be a cynical misogynist, but girls that hot simply aren't that smart and that eager to discuss philosophy. I know lots of hot girls, and even the intelligent ones get by mainly on their looks. Why? It's easier, and all humans, male and female, generally follow the path of least resistance.
Ugh! If she is a hoax, I should be allowed the opportunity to dance around and shout "I Told You So!" to my detractors. Instead, all this makes me now want very much for HAC to not be a hoax. See her response here, which seems pretty middling (neither convincing nor unconvincing) as far as counterarguments to the question of whether or not one exists go. Such drama!
posted by jeremy at 12:29 AM | link |   

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

today's timesuck 

Upwards of two hours of my life has been misspent on the homestarrunner website, to which I was directed by a reader from Westerberg, PA. Especially recommended is the e-mail section, and especially here one should hheck out The Dragon, English paper, and The Bet episodes. I was laughing hard all alone here in the RV, which doesn't happen often. I should note that I have no idea how this website connects to anything in the larger culture (are these characters on a TV show?, etc.).
posted by jeremy at 7:00 PM | link |   

And the JFW award for this month's most gratuitously-intellectually-insulting-paragraph-concluding-sentence goes to..., for this paragraph of a story on Lynne Truss, who has written a popular British polemic on the virtues of proper punctuation, including many righteous pages on a cause dear to my own heart--abuses of apostrophes:
Truss lambasts Britain's National Union of Teachers for a letter in which it refers to "childrens' education," the British Broadcasting Corp. for promising "nouns and apostrophe's" in a grammar lesson on its Web site and the government for a passport application form that asked for the full name of "the person who's details are given in Section 02." All three apostrophes are misused.
posted by jeremy at 1:53 AM | link |   

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

not just for futons anymore 

Several readers have sent messages of support for my futon cover choice. As shown above, a reader from Westerberg, PA has decided that the pattern also makes good wallpaper in Windows. Thanks!
posted by jeremy at 11:36 PM | link |   

norma jay 

The rumor in the hallways here is that the teaching assistant's union has voted to strike. While one may usually associate a strike with workers going off the job and then not coming back until an agreement is reached, word is that the teaching assistants will strike for two days sometime soon, and then they will go back to work but will withhold grades at the end of the semester. The University reportedly did partially cave in at the last minute and offer to commission a portrait of the union officers with Stevie Nicks, but this was too little, too late to prevent the strike vote from passing.

Anyway, this means that there will almost certainly be picket lines on one of the remaining days that I teach. I don't actually know for sure that there will be picket lines for the building where I teach, but presumably there will be. I have been told that if I hold the class at some alternative venue then striking students will show up for it (I mean, students on strike in my class will show up to attend it, not that striking students will follow my class to wherever it goes just to picket it specifically). I have not yet started making calls to investigate the possibility of alternative venues.
posted by jeremy at 11:23 PM | link |   

feet don't fail me now 

I love my new Converse All-Stars. I've been wearing them all the time. I wore them to teach in today, accessorized by a matching black-and-white shirt-and-pants combination. I had a student afterwards comment that the white part of the shoes were so bright as to be almost blinding and confusion inducing to someone watching me (try to) lecture. When I told someone else about this, they suggested that I drag the shoes behind my car for a couple of blocks to give them that hip, scuffed-up look. Kids these days!

Update, 10:20pm: A reader e-mails immediately to exclaim: "egads! put on some [expletive]ing socks!"
posted by jeremy at 11:09 PM | link |   

still more mirah 

"What are you listening to?"
"You have the strangest taste in music."
"What's strange about Pavement?"
"Them and that Mirah And The Weeds woman."
"What's wrong with Mirah?"
"Why were you afraid to talk to her?"
"How would I not be afraid to talk to someone whose famous and that I'm in love with?"
"Is she really hot? You said she was hot."
"I did not. I said she looked like a dissertator in library science, which could mean various things."
"Why would you want her to move into the RV with you if she wasn't hot?"
"Why does a woman have to be 'hot' for me to want her to move into the RV?"
"She doesn't. It just seems to work out that way."
"What is that even supposed to mean? And besides, when have you EVER heard me describe another human being as 'hot'?"
"I don't understand why you were afraid to talk to her if she wasn't hot."
"She's famous. She's awesome. Why isn't that enough?"
"It's not enough. And besides, you seem to be the only person who's heard of her."
posted by jeremy at 11:08 PM | link |   

frequently asked questions about jeremy, continued 

Q: Is the Cheese and Nut Et Al. Diet anything like this Cheese and Sour Cream Diet I keep hearing so much about?

A: No. The Cheese and Sour Cream Diet is pretty much just a Vegetarian Atkins diet.

Q: Does advice from Professor _______ fall under the Doctor Phil Rule?

A: Depends. The Doctor Phil rule, whereupon a sentence that begins with "Doctor Phil says..." costs the person who says it to me a quarter, was generalized to all cases of "[honorific] + [first name] says...". So, for example, "Professor Plum says..." would not cost you a quarter, but "Professor Sue says..." would cost you a quarter.
posted by jeremy at 10:54 PM | link |   

*** correction to earlier post *** 

Apparently, there is a problem with the appearance of the recently posted photo of my new futon on some monitors. The futon cover in the photo is supposed to be yellow with little red, blue, green, and orange squares. Apparently, with some monitor/driver configurations, the cover instead appears to depict me satanically dismembering kittens or some similarly heinous act. Only for this reason can I imagine why my futon cover would provoke the virulent reaction from readers that it has.

It's a futon cover. For a futon that is in my home (RV) office. Some readers who have shared their disgust for the futon cover know my favorite color is yellow. They know I like bright colors in my workspace. They know that if you get tired of a futon cover you can buy another one for like $50, max.

Jesus Christ.

Regardless of whatever I may have said in the previous futon post about proverbial rubber and proverbial glue, I do not want to hear anything more about my futon cover selection. Any further correspondence on the matter will get you a one-quarter circle downgrade in hell (I have connections).
posted by jeremy at 3:23 AM | link |   


"Are you ever going to let me finish a sentence?"
"I always let you finish sentences."
"You're not now."
"I let you finish the 'Are you going to let me finish a sentence' sentence, and I just let you finish the 'You're not now' sentence."
"Those don't count."
"Not to mention the 'Those don't count' sentence."
"Shut up."
[clackety-clack, clackety-clack]
"Hey, what are you typing?"
posted by jeremy at 12:24 AM | link |   

Monday, April 19, 2004

helping hand! 

Hey, look. One of my most loyal and supportive readers decided that, as long I was going to go gallavanting around to concerts in co-ops like last week's excursion to Mirah, I needed my own pair of Converse All-Stars (Chuck's) to wear to the shows. So they bought them for me as a gift ("A token of appreciation for the inspiration and hope your weblog has given me," the note read, "As hackneyed as this may sound, your weblog is truly the wind beneath my wings"). This new edition of the shoe, called the Chuck's "Shop Teachers," has four severed fingers glued to the side of each shoe.

Awesome! Thanks!
posted by jeremy at 9:08 PM | link |   

Sunday, April 18, 2004

mass attenuation project update 

Results of a diet-consistent shopping trip earlier today, consistent with the current diet:

At Whole Foods:

1. Slab of part skim mozzarella cheese
2. A pound of macadamia nuts
3. A carton of prewashed white and red grapes
4. Six half-liters of organic spring water

At Starbucks:

1. A venti hot chocolate, with skim milk
posted by jeremy at 11:57 PM | link |   

special announcement 

Emily has started her own weblog on blogspot. However, she says she is not yet "psychologically ready" to tell others its URL. I have tried to guess it, to no avail. It does turn out that two likely candidates:

do correspond to weblogs, but neither of them are hers. Emily says that most of her posts so far have been expressions of self-loathing about her having her own blog.

Meanwhile: My weblog was recently given props on NinaNet. The two examples from my blogoeuvre selected as representative of my "poignantly humorous" stylings were this and this.
posted by jeremy at 11:13 PM | link |   

acquisitions update, long overdue 

For those interested either in (a) my general goings-on or (b) casing the RV for a possible burglary, I was reminded that I promised to post a photo of the futon that I bought a couple months ago. So here it is. The futon fabric was called "Cha-Cha"; the pillows are "turquoise."

(BTW, I believe this is the first photograph I've posted that was taken inside the RV.)

Update, 12:15am: First comment received from a reader [from Austintacious, TX] regarding my futon: "that futon is totally butt [ugly], no offense." None taken. When it comes to my choice of furnishings, my-aesthetic-sense is proverbial rubber and the rest of the world is proverbial glue.
posted by jeremy at 12:40 AM | link |   

Saturday, April 17, 2004

mass attenuation project update 

Today is Day 14 of what was formerly known as the Cheese and Nut Diet, and which has now morphed into the Cheese and Nut and Fruits and Vegetables and Fish and occasionally Hot Chocolate Diet. All is still going well. The goal is to make it to the end of the semester, which is three weeks away. Some observations:

1. Yes, I really am eating a whole lot of nuts. Most of what I am eating are cashews and macademian nuts, with almonds and peanuts also commonly consumed.

2. I resent those who refer to what I am doing as a "Vegetarian Atkins Diet." For an example of what I am having to deal with, here's a verbatim snippet from a telephone conversation earlier today:

"You're on a vegetarian Atkins diet."
"No. It's a Cheese and Nut and Fruits and Vegetables and Fish and occasionally Hot Chocolate Diet."
"So, you're saying you're on a vegetarian Atkins diet."

First, a diet with fish in its name is not vegetarian. Second, hot chocolate is not Atkins-approved anyway. Second, I am eating way more fruits and verboten vegetables with more abandon that is Atkins-recommended. Third, why are all diets that have some carbohydrate-aversion now automatically deemed to be either Atkins, South Beach, or children or stepchildren thereof. Fourth, it's strange that there would even be the idea of a vegetarian variant of a diet that moves people to eat fifteen consecutive days of sirloin.

3. I have indeed experienced the keto-breath I was warned about. I don't know if I would agree that it's like sucking on a dime or not. Part of the problem is that I don't really have that great of an idea of what sucking on a dime tastes like.

[oh, how I hate to catch myself claiming ignorance on matters for which ignorance is easily overcome. Let me go pull some change out of my glass jar...]

No, I can now confidently state that it's really much closer to sucking on a nickel.*

* Warning: For safety's sake, always wash coins before sucking on them.
posted by jeremy at 10:50 PM | link |   

Thursday, April 15, 2004


[This post was originally intentionally left blank, and was supposed to be just the above title. Then I posted the update(s) below.]

Update, 11:30am: A reader from Yummy Spinach, CT asks "How is whelmed different from overwhelmed?" Whelmed is indeed a word, meaning (and etymologically preceding) the same thing as overwhelmed. However, the title of this post is not actually "feeling whelmed," but:


which you are supposed to read as "feeling over whelmed." I know, I'm endlessly clever. Just like a few days ago when I had the post with the title:


This was supposed to be read as "miss under stood."

Update, 12:30pm: The reader from Yummy Spinach, CT writes back to say:
pardon those of us who are
with your well-being.
posted by jeremy at 10:40 AM | link |   

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

in other weblogs 

Remember the "Black People Love Us" spoof-website that received a lot of attention about a year and a half ago. I just stumbled across this spoof of that site on Blogspot. I'm trying to figure out if it's most likely that (a) Tom made this site, or (b) Jamie, or (c) some friend of theirs (perhaps the dork-wannabe at the bottom). Any guesses?

posted by jeremy at 9:21 PM | link |   

mirah, mirah 

As anticipated in a previous post, I went to see Mirah last night at this co-op. The venue was, indeed, a very large living room. Chairs and sofas had been pulled into a semi-circle, and the stage was a bare patch of floor illuminated by a ratty old floorlamp. It felt kinda like being in a big church basement and kinda like being in a small livestock pavilion. In terms of age, I had at least one and usually two or three presidential administrations on everyone else there.

After two crunchy local acts, Mirah's sister, a.k.a. "The Weeds" (it's just her), opened. Disadvantage of having your sister open for you: your music probably sounds too much alike than is advisable for adjacent acts. Advantage of having your sister open for you: she probably knows all your songs, and so if you forget a line, like Mirah did while doing "Murphy Bed," she can yell out the lyric for you.

Anyway, Mirah and her sister were both great.* If you saw Mirah in a coffeeshop or something, you would be sure she was a dissertator in library science that you'd seen around. Attendance was sparse; maybe 70 people, most of whom were apathetic-feral children of the cooperative living set, who were not adequately appreciative of the talent of either Mirah or Ms. Weeds. I stopped by the table and bought both The Weeds CD and Mirah's most recent CD. I could have bought these from Mirah herself, but then, paralyzed by trepidation and bashfulness, I bought them from the Weedy Sister instead. This caused me to doubt, for the first time ever, my many earlier confident pronouncements that Mirah and I would one day ended up falling in love and living together in the RV.

* Even though Mirah did not do her best song, "La Familia," from her K records debut, You Think It's Like This But It's Really Like This.
posted by jeremy at 5:52 PM | link |   

quick: regarding hallway manners 

Say you are walking down the hall and approach someone walking the other way. "Hi _______, how are you?" They sigh and say "Hanging in there." You do not have the time and/or inclination to stop and inquire further about the problem. So, how do you respond? Do you say something like "Good," which praises that life has not yet defeated them? Or do you say something that shows regret that they feel like life is trying to defeat them? Do you say nothing? Do you say something completely noncommital, and, if so, what would an example of something you could say that would be completely noncommital?

Update 4/14, 11pm: The leading response is that I say something empathetic along the lines of "I hear ya" or "I know what you mean." The suggestion that my stock response should be "Shut up, little man!"--and that this would work despite the gender, size, or other characteristics of the person who says "Hanging in there"--may be a cute fringe-culture reference, but I think would be undesirable for my purposes.
posted by jeremy at 1:40 PM | link |   

bleed, sisters, or there will be hell to pay! 

Amalgam of coverage from and another site:
The national office of a sorority whose members were urged to lie about their health to boost turnout in a competitive campus blood drive apologized Tuesday. [...]

In an e-mail sent last Tuesday to about 170 members of Gamma Phi Beta, sophomore Christie Key, the chapter's blood donation coordinator, wrote: "I dont care if you got a tattoo last week LIE. I dont care if you have a cold. Suck it up. We all do. LIE. Recent peircings? LIE."

She added: "Even if youre going to use the Do Not Use My Blood sticker, GIVE ANYWAY." Donors who have second thoughts at the donation site can discreetly attach a sticker to a health questionnaire indicating their blood shouldn't be used.

In her e-mail, Key wrote: "We're not messing around. Punishment for not giving blood is going to be quite severe. Phi Delt and D-Chi had 100% of their houses signed up, no problem. Fraternities don’t stand for BS like that and we’re not going to either.”
posted by jeremy at 1:55 AM | link |   

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

iTunes iNsomnia, another edition 

Tonight, listening side-by-side to "Head On" by The Jesus & Mary Chain and then the cover of that same song by The Pixies, trying to decide which I like better. Being especially impressed that The Pixies took a song that was 4:09 in the J&MC rendition and did it in 2:14. And then comparing both songs to my recent traumatic experience downloading 50 Cent's P.I.M.P, and feeling like the world has definitely sailed away and left me on some cultural dock circa 1990.

Tomorrow night I am going to see Mirah, who is playing in the "ballroom-sized living room" of a residential co-op. Apparently she is playing this venue because it is all ages and she has a committment to playing only all ages venues (where she sings songs with lyrics like "tie me to the Murphy bed, let's do all the things you said"). I have to imagine that playing only all ages venues is about the last music cause I am in any mood to support, as I would already feel geriatric even if it was restricted to 21 and up. As someone pointed out to me, given that she's playing in a co-op, I will not only feel unusually old compared to those around me, but also unusually clean.

Being in a co-op will probably remind me of the month that Erin and I lived in a co-op while attending StatsCamp in Ann Arbor. Before we moved in, Erin had thought that her communitarian ideals would make her much more suited than me to handling co-operative living. From the first day, however, it was evident that my indifference to chaos and residential filth, especially in contrast to her persnicketiness, was going to make me much more contented resident.

(Although at least Erin found her brief and intense, if ultimately tragic, romance with RJ from the co-op. As long as I've been on a kick of nostalgia for things I wrote for parties in graduate school, I should see if I can find the ghost story I wrote about their doomed love for Erin's cemetery Hallowe'en party.)
posted by jeremy at 2:41 AM | link |   

Monday, April 12, 2004

aside regarding constitutional law 

Quote in the NYT from Antonin Scalia's apology for the seizure of audio recordings made by print journalists by a deputy federal marshall: "'The electronic media have in the past respected my First Amendment right not to speak on radio or television when I do not wish to do so,' he wrote, 'and I am sure that courtesy will continue.'"

Is this actually a First Amendment right? Isn't Scalia supposed to revere narrow readings of the constitution?
posted by jeremy at 10:36 PM | link |   

in other weblogs 

This edition's featured exhibit. Precisely two posts, written two months apart, enthusiastic about something just read, and then that's that. I can so much more easily understand and excited first post never followed by a second than I can the idea of a single other post written two months later.
posted by jeremy at 3:12 AM | link |   

frequently asked questions about jeremy, continued 

Q: So it's 2AM again and you are up at your keyboard? Aren't you tired?

A: I'm exhausted. I can hardly type.

Q: So why aren't you asleep?

A: Tiredness and sleep have never been so nicely correlated for me as one might suppose.

Q: Does this mean you are going to be all self-pitying in your blog yet again? Or maybe you can resume the pomposity of your earlier exchanges about dorkiness.

A: Faux pomposity, don't take that seriously. Her e-mails made me wheeze with laughter, almost to the point of low-grade convulsions. Except do take seriously the thing about how the invocation of my middle name is not to be done without expecting a retaliatory response.

But, anyway, no whining tonight: instead, on the whole, I'm still just so pleased with how things have been so far in 2004. There is much to be grateful for. Indeed, I was going to write a "gratitude journal" post now, but I decided it would break my declared embargo against being effusive in any emotional direction online after midnight.
posted by jeremy at 3:02 AM | link |   

Sunday, April 11, 2004

emily's sassy lime 

Emily asked me to post her rejoinder to my earlier reply to her attack from today. Actually, she said, "Post it, [expletive]!", but I presume [expletive] was referring to me. Anyway, since JFW is all about constructive dialogue directed toward personal growth, here it is, unedited and in its entirety (comments in italics):
-----Original Message-----
From: Emily
Sent: Sunday, April 11, 2004 5:41 PM
To: Jeremy
Subject: emily's sassy lime
my response to your blog attack on my person:
1.  you are right.  "I Palindrome I" is not a song full of palindromes. it
is not even exactly a song about things being the same front-wise and
back-ways. i don't know that i really know what the song IS about, but
that doesn't matter. i very much do know that palindromes are different
from "word palindromes" despite your implication that i am ignorant of
this. i was merely pointing out that, in dork circles at least, knowledge
of what a palindrome is certainly does not set one apart from the crowd.
knowing how much the "j" tile is worth in scrabble is also par for the
course. additionally, you have failed to notice that the palindrome "Egad,
a base tone denotes a bad age." is also sung in the background of this
This is not actually true. While it says this in the liner notes for the album, actually listening to the song makes plain that the words are "bass tone", which makes this not a palindrome at all, so I did not include it. I do agree with Emily that I have no idea what the song is about either.
2.  pointing out just how much you dislike your middle name will not
dissuade me from using it. you may find that that i use it more often.
i also feel compelled to point out that you TOLD me your middle name even
though you surely must have been aware that it is my very nature to attack
where you are most weak. i say that it is a testament to the tiny amount
of goodness that i do possess that i have not mentioned it before. i have
known your middle name for at least a year and have never told anyone.
now, however, i believe i will go to one of those websites where one can
rate professors and write a scathing criticism of the teaching stylings of
one jeremy jay freese!
I am all for this, as long as you let me know what site it is and offer your criticisms specifically of my graduate methods class. I will offer my own vicious and slanderous criticisms under assumed name(s), as part of a campaign to drive down enrollments for subsequent incarnations. I am sure others can be enlisted to join in the offensive.
3.  you are right again.  i misquoted the song in my email signature.
thank you for attacking when i am down, you [expletive]. i would like to note
that i have not had this email signature for "months". until some point
on march 29, 2003 it was:
It is important to expect nothing,
To take every experience,
Including the negative ones,
As merely steps on the path,
And to proceed.
___ Ram Dass, Spiritual Teacher
you already had the cookies, you FINALLY found 
the milk,...GOT JESUS???
so, thanks for pointing it out, jeremy.  now that the gloves are off and
you feel free to point out that people used to like me but no longer do,
looks like i am right back here on the path, but at least with jesus by
my side.
Well, um, I suppose this is an appropriate response, given the Easter holiday. Leave it to Emily to find the spiritual silver lining in any situation.
4.  [deleted by order of JFW legal staff]
Okay, so "unedited and in its entirety" except for this.
5.  yeah, dude, you are a big [expletive]ing dork.  i'm not saying that you
aren't. make a [expletive]ing sound file for your blog. i'm just saying that
your dorky-ness does not leave me impressed. if you think that this blog
makes you stand out among the dorky masses, you are vermicious knidding
No comment. I will leave who is knidding whom to the judgment of readers. Emily does earn extra JFW green stamps for putting a palindrome in her subject line.
posted by jeremy at 7:14 PM | link |   


A local reader has e-mailed to pooh-pooh this morning's exchange about dorkdom:
Wow. I never knew all that was involved in being a huge dork. Not that I was ever all that "cool,", but I guess I always just figured that it was a relatively loose claim to make about oneself. How wrong I was, indeed. But I will say this - if being nitpicky, overly critical, and self-righteous is what it takes to be crowned queen or king, you both have some serious competition in the sociology department.
Hmph. It's not being nitpicky, overly critical, and self-righteous that is the issue; it's being nitpicky, overly critical, and self-righteous about totally dorky things. This was posited as central to the dork concept in recent research on dorks conducted right here in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Sociology.
posted by jeremy at 6:29 PM | link |   


Whatever else may be going on, do not forget that the Dr. Phil Rule is still in effect. As a result of a couple of e-mails, a backstage-pass premium subscriber from Tashkent, OH is now in hock to me for fifty cents. You could be next.
posted by jeremy at 11:43 AM | link |   

able was i ere i saw emily 

A reader from Through a Glass, Dorkly has e-mailed the following retort to my recent happy nostalgic post regarding palindromes:
i was just thinking about how irritating that palindrome invitation is.
and also how stupid people are for being impressed by it. liking
palindromes is classic dork behavior. i mean, [expletive]ing TMBG has a song
about palindromes!* any dorky loser worth their salt has sat around
playing [expletive]ing word games with palindromes and anagrams. sheesh!
but then i started thinking that if YOU, jeremy jay freese**, really want to
set yourself apart from the rest of the dorky masses, you should start
collect [sic] palindromes in other languages. yep. then i will have some
respect for you.
when you feel ugly & petty
awkward & unsteady
just try not to forget
there's so many people who like you***
--jeff lewis, "alphabet"
* TMBG = They Might Be Giants, not quite Kraftwerk but still one of the pre-eminent old-school dork bands.**** However, the author's assertion in this is not actually correct. TMBG do not have a song called "I Palindrome I", they have two songs called this. The author of this e-mail is trying to claim the dork high ground on me in this e-mail, and yet she doesn't know this. Besides, she seems to think that either song is about palindromes, but neither really is. The only palindromes in the more well-known song are "manonam" (sung in the background) "Dad", "Mom", and "I." This version of the song does have a word palindrome in the middle*****, but for people serious about palindromes--which, the above author, despite regular claims to dork-hood, apparently is not, word palindromes are not palindromes at all. (Numerical palindromes--like the last four digits of my phone number, by my choice--do count as palindromes). On the basis of this alone, I will leave it to the reader's discernment who in this exchange is really the dorky loser less worth her veruca salt.

** The author of this e-mail knows very well that the use of my middle name is the ultimate fighting word in any discussion with me.

*** While we're talking about dork credentials, I'll also note here that the author of this e-mail has been for months now using this song lyric to fill her gullet from a false reservoir of hope. Anyone worth enough dorky salt to listen closely to the song can hear plainly that the lyric is not "there's so many people who like you", implying of course that there presently are people who like you, but actually "there's so many people who'd liked you," implying you were once liked by many but are no more.****** It's not nearly so hopeful a song as this reader has been long comforted by supposing. I have hitherto politely refrained from pointing this out to her, but now that the word "jay" has been placed between my first and last names, the gloves are off.

**** Regarding TMBG, there is this first-year student in our program who looks strikingly like John Linnell (the thin, talented, introverted one--as opposed to John Flansburgh, the portly, less talented, but more gregarious one).

***** A word palindrome is a sentence that reads the same whether the words (but not letters within the words) are read forwards or backwards. The word palindrome from "I Palindrome I" (other than its title):
"Son I am able," she said "though you scare me."
"Watch," said I
"Beloved," I said "watch me scare you though." said she,
"Able am I, Son."
****** If I were at the office, I would use my sound-editing software to splice out this line from the song so readers can hear for themselves. I am dorky enough both to do this and to make a big deal out of doing it.
posted by jeremy at 11:15 AM | link |   

Saturday, April 10, 2004

star 68 

It's my mother's birthday today. I called her bright and early today. She had apparently forgotten all about it, or so she says.

Speaking of my mother's birthday and forgetting, it wasn't 'til I was typing up this post that I realized that I had forgotten about my maternal birthday ritual. When my mom turned 60, I think, I bought her a dozen roses. She was completely bowled over by this, because, she said, no one had ever bought her roses in her life (thanks, Dad). So now, I place my annual call to Judy at Clearwater Floral back in my hometown.

As I dialed, I worried that maybe, as my hometown withers away, the flower shop would be going out of business one of these years. Then I realized I needn't worry: when you have a town with a shockingly high average age, that means you have a lot of funerals, and, a lot of funerals, a lot of flowers.
posted by jeremy at 5:14 PM | link |   

are we not drawn onward, we few, drawn onward to new era? (or, a daft fad from my past) 

Yesterday, a graduate student in my department came into my office and told me that he had a story for me. Seven years ago, he was dating a woman who was a graduate student at Stanford, who forwarded him an e-mail that had been forwarded to her from someone else, etc.. He found amusing then, and for whatever reason, thought about it again recently. He wondered if he could find it on the web. As it turned out, he could, on my webpage, because it turned out that I had written it and then later, for whatever reason, posted it among various other miscelleny on my site.

One of the things that this evoked by this interaction was a reminder of how dated my webpage has become, which I have resolved to fix once this semester is over (see post immediately below). I don't even want to link to my webpage, so I'll paste the party invitation below.

As you can see when you scroll down, the party was a palindrome party for my friend Nazan. I had to deflate the student's esteem for me by telling him that I did NOT actually make up the sentential palindromes in the message. I have a collection of palindromes. I was surprised how many invitees to the original party also thought I had come up with all them, which both dramatically overestimates my cleverness and dramatically underestimates the difficulty of composing (discovering?) palindromes. Clever English sentential palindromes are discovered at about the same rate as the discovery of new elements in the Periodic Table (and I'm sure there are many more people out there who have tried to come up with original palindromes than come up with new elements).

Other things evoked by the interaction:

1. The warm fuzziness of nostalgia for what was a very happy period of my life.

2. Dismay that it was already seven years ago.

3. The recollection that I enjoyed composing party invitations about as much as going to parties themselves, which was probably a harbinger of the weblog.

4. The memory that the Palindrome Party was the party where a friend of mine hooked up with this guy that we had previously called Psychology Twerp (he was a graduate student in psychology, and twerpish), and then afterward, due to some feature of the post-tryst account that I said I Did Not Want To Know, was renamed The Flying Nun.

Date: Tue, 6 May 1997 13:27:11 -0500 (EST)
From: Jeremy Freese
To: [recipients deleted]
Subject: A man, a plan, a canal... PARTY AT NAZAN'S!!!
Really massive party THIS FRIDAY NIGHT at Nazan's, 9pm.  Bring friends.   
Her address is 131 Teert Street, which is half a block
due south of the Irish Lion, behind Bank One. Much fun will be had by
all, so please come.
I have to warn you, though, the party has an unusual theme.  I mean, it 
could be a going away celebration for Nazan's roommate Jim, a friend of
many of us in the department. It could be to mourn the possibly looming
departure of Nazan herself. It could be to welcome Erin Maher back to
Bloomington, or to congratulate those who are receiving their Ph.D's. Or
the party could just be to bask in the end of the academic year and the
joy of impending summer. Any of these would be a good reason to throw a
big party, but aren't *the* reason.
Instead, Nazan wants to have a party in recognition of the fact that the 
name "Nazan" spelled backwards is also, amazingly enough, "Nazan". A
party in celebration of words like "kayak" and "race car", or phrases
like "No, it is open on one position". A party where she can come out to
the world for what she is, a hopeless and incurable cilohaholic, someone
desperately addicted to PALINDROMES, you know, things spelled the same
way frontwards and backwards.
Yes, really, a palindrome party.  Obscure, peculiar, exotic, but there 
it is.
And so, if you have ever been to a French-Lebanese restaurant and ordered 
"Le Falafel"; if you've seen Sharon drive by in her red Camry and
observed "A Toyota"; if you flunked out of gym class because you couldn't
do a "pull-up"; if you've taken to calling one of your socially inept
professors "Dr. Awkward"; if you've seen Dave in one of his fetching
yellow outfits and wanted to shout, "Yo! Banana boy!"; if you've spent
any of your academic career at IUPUI; if you keep candy stashed in a
secret "reward drawer"; if you've watched the Cosby Show and noticed that
"Lisa Bonet ate no basil"; if you had to quit going to the Kinsey
lunchtime brownbag because "sex at noon taxes"; if you've been addicted
to Xanax or PCP; if you've looked into a dark corner of the ISR and
wondered, "Was it a rat I saw?"; if you've been in the produce department
at Kroger and whined about there being "no lemons, no melon"; if you've
tried to start a conversation with a fourteenth-year graduate student by
saying "Here so long? No loser, eh?"; if you saw Jesse Jackson or George
McGovern host Saturday Night Live and gushed "Star comedy by Democrats";
if you've tried to entice a partner into insurrection by yelling "Revolt,
lover!"; if you've run out of a Variations in Human Sexuality lecture
with the cry, "Egad! No bondage!"; if you've seen ex-VP-Quayle in a glum
mood and noted "Poor Dan is in a droop"; if you've been to Oklahoma and
discovered "Tulsa nightlife: filth, gin, a slut"; if you've totally
gorged yourself at Fazoli's and had to shout "Go hang a salami! I'm a
lasagna hog!"; if you've thought your life was going to be ruined by
"Stats! Stats! Stats!"; or if you've ever gotten sloshed on your favorite
$3 green wine and muttered "Goddamn Mad Dog", then this, my friends, is
the party for ewe (and eye)!
Nazan will be there. Bob will be there. Anna will be returning for it. 
Elle MacPherson, Lil' Abner, Otto Van Bismarck, the guy who played Radar
O'Reilly, and (oh no!) Don Ho are rumored celebrity guests. Possibly:
Oprah & Harpo, Aidan & Nadia (in an unholy pairing of B-movie talent
with Romanian gymnastics), Gladys Knight and at least one Pip. Also:
senile felines, somebody's Mom and Dad (and Sis?). Music: Plan no damn
Madonna LP, but probably plenty of Abba, NIN, A-ha.
Obviously, 7/9/97 would be a better day for this party, but because Jim 
is leaving, we can't wait that long. Festivities will begin at 9:09pm
and will probably last until NOON the next day. Please BYOYB (Bring Your
Own Yeasty Beverage), or else bring some pop.
So come see Nazan and Jim's apartment and say "Wow!"; come celebrate the 
end of the semester and shout "Yay!"; come bring some delicious food so
we can go "Mmm!"; or just come to cheer and laugh: "Rah, rah! Har, har!"
But whatever you do, don't miss it, because a party like this only comes
around once every noillion years. Or maybe just every six years, because,
as Prince might say, Friday night we're gonna party like it's 1991.
posted by jeremy at 5:11 PM | link |   

more and more about less and less 

We're on Day 7 of the diet-until-the-end-of-the-semester-diet, and so far things still seem to be going well. If I continue to survive it and various other travails of this semester, I'll post some graphs or something of its progress.

I had the idea for the diet-until-the-end-of-the-semester-diet in seeing the movie Touching the Void, which features a man who barely survived a femur-shattering fall and being left behind by his partner (who thought he was dead) on the side of the mountain. As he described how he crawled and butt-scooted his way to safety, he said that he couldn't think about the whole improbably journal in front of him. Instead, he would focus on like a rock somewhere ahead and decide he was going to get to the rock in twenty minutes (luckily, his wristwatch, despite taking a licking, kept on ticking). So, I thought, rather than decide to try to make any proclamation that I was going to try to eat-less-and-healthier-and-move-more-and-more-briskly for, say, life, I thought I would try to do it for the rest of the semester, especially since it's so easy to say that one will postponing to resolve doing anything until the end of the semester.

Another part of this resolution: I have declared that I will not again use the elevators in the Social Science building for the remainder of the semester. Really, truly. Not going from 2 (entrance from path to parking lot) to 8 (office) to 5 (exit toward classroom) to 6 (exit to State Street) to 4 (vending machines [although my soda consumption is now exclusively diet and is much reduced]). Once, since making this resolution, I absent-mindedly pushed the button for the elevator, and when it arrived, stepped in, remembered the resolution, and then pounced out, murmuring something about having "forgotten something" to the person already in the elevator. I also pressed the button once and remembered the resolution as it arrived, and again I jumped away.
posted by jeremy at 4:38 PM | link |   

Friday, April 09, 2004

frequently asked questions about jeremy, continued 

Q: Hey, Jeremy, it's 6am. You got virtually no sleep last night, and you have a talk that you have to give in three hours. Isn't it going to be harder to do a good talk when you haven't slept?

A: Grrr. You know, sometimes I am NOT IN THE MOOD for your frequently asked questions.

Q: Sheesh. Why are you so grouchy?

A: Leave me alone! I need to get these graphs ready for my talk!
posted by jeremy at 7:06 AM | link |   

Thursday, April 08, 2004

iNsomnia and iTunes, continued 

Okay, so I'm up late tonight for no good reason, and I was reading an article online about the music industry that made reference to how music sales in 2003 ended up not being as bad as record executives feared, due to the sales of Justin Timberlake and 50 Cent. While the Super Bowl halftime show filled my Timberlake quota, I thought I would investigate what all this "50 Cent" fuss among the youth of America was about. I have seen pictures of him and certainly seen him mentioned many times, but being radio-free in this millenium, I had never actually any heard songs by him.

Two minutes and two dollars later, and I downloaded the two best-selling 50 Cent songs on iTunes, entitled "21 Questions" and "P.I.M.P." I bought the versions with the EXPLICIT warning, figuring they best reflect the true vision and aspiration of the artist unconstrained by some the relentlessly puritan forces of society. I first listened to "21 Questions" and thought, well, even though this isn't really my thing, it has a certain rogue-ish sweetness to it, I can see the appeal. And, so, then, perhaps somewhat with my guard down, I clicked to play "P.I.M.P.". Conclusion: If one believes the children are the future, then I give the future twenty years, tops. I don't mean to sound curmudgeonly but, Dear God, we are all doomed. I believe--and I'm really trying not to be overly dramatic here--that I may well have been psychologically damaged by this song, like a three-year-old that walks in on his parents and familial pets in some sweaty contorted compromising position.

On the positive music recommendation side, two contradictory-themed songs that are currently spending a lot of time spinning on the iTunes-turntable here in the RV: "Romantic Comedy" by the Stars and "Falling Out of Love With You" by The 6ths. Meanwhile, I am even more acutely than usual looking for good music recommendations, so please pass them along.
posted by jeremy at 3:09 AM | link |   

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

(contest) name that sentence 

In my graduate methods class, we spend the first half of every Tuesday class discussing an article from ASR or AJS. The articles have been selected for maximal methodological variation, which really has led to a (quite enjoyable, in fact) canvassing of a wildly broad terrain. Anyway, this week's article was from ASR and on the responses of police to protest events in New York in the late 1960's and early 1970's. I emphatically do not mean this as any larger dig at the authors of this article or the article itself, but the article had this sentence at the start of the conclusion that induced A Certain Type Of Moment for me. The sentence being:

"Despite popular and academic beliefs to the contrary, we have shown that police have varied responses to protest."

What happens in This Certain Type Of Moment is that I am transported back home to the family farm, where I am sitting at the kitchen table with my mother, who dropped out of high school to get married and who has always been suspicious (even while supportive and proud) of this whole "professoring" gig of her youngest son. This particular issue of ASR is sitting at the table between us, and gust of a wind or something sweeps through the kitchen and blows open the journal to this particular page. My mother's looks down and her eyes happen to fix upon this one particular sentence, denuded of all context, and she reads it out loud: "Despite popular and academic beliefs to the contrary, we have shown that police have varied responses to protest."

Then my dear and wonderful mother looks up at me, a little puzzled, and she says, politely: "So they're saying the police don't respond to all situations the same. Like sometimes they make arrests or try to break things up, and sometimes they don't. Seems pretty obvious, don't it? But, they're saying that before they did this research, everybody believed that police responded to every--whatyoucallit--'protest event' in exactly the same way. That's a pretty strange thing for everyone to have believed, if you ask me."

And, in that moment, I have absolutely no idea what to say. I just close the journal and try to distract her by pointing to something out the window.

It's a Recurrent Type Of Moment, not at all confined to this one article even though this time it happened to prompt this post. The Recurrent Moment is provoked by a specific Type of Sentence, and I want to have some (preferably catchy) name for this Type of Sentence. That's the special weblog contest; e-mail me your entries.* The basic experience of this Type of Sentence is that I read it and am overcome with the feeling that the sentence--if read in isolation by a layperson--is probably not the most compelling ambassador of the insights offered via the sociological imagination.**

* Clarification: the contest is to offer a catchy name for the moment described above, not to provide further example of sentences evocative of that moment in prominently published social science work. Examples of the latter are certainly welcome if you have any, but they won't win you a JFW kewpie doll.

** Nor, for that matter, are such sentences necessarily or even usually very representative of the quality and findings of the research reported in the rest of the article. Sentences that read as very unprofound in isolation can obviously appear in the context of very good and non-intuitive work. And, yes, I am also sure that I probably have my own sentences somewhere in my nascent oeuvre that could induce similar Moments in others.

posted by jeremy at 8:10 AM | link |   

conceptual matters, continued 

A reader from Fifteen Days of Sirlo, IN writes: "In far too many films, when the male protagonist falls in love with a woman, the woman is a poorly fleshed out ideal without actual human traits. Men run Hollywood, after all. Incidentally, I agree with the Beaubaxton friend about Clementine. I thought she was a depressing, pitiful, lonely-dork-boy wet dream. That in itself ain't a crime, but that's all she was. Hence, concept."

Actually, the dispute between myself and my friend from Beauxbaton was strange: I thought Clementine was a concept, but I could see someone falling in love with her as a concept. Indeed, her warning "I'm not a concept!" seemed to be a warning to Joel not to fall in love with Clementine-the-concept, but rather Clementine-the-impulsive-psycho. What I couldn't see what how any woman would find Joel appealing. Mme. Beauxbaton, meanwhile, had no trouble seeing why someone would fall in love with Joel--using a calculus of amorousness that was way outside anything my straight male mind could apprehend--but she couldn't see what any man would genuinely find appealing in Clementine.

Meanwhile, at least a couple readers of the early morning edition of my weblog noticed that I originally named a specific individual as an example of a person-as-concept, only later to replace it with "[insert name here]." I did this on the advice of the crackerjack JFW legal team, as apparently some people might construe (unintended) negative implications of being labeled "a concept." However, later, upon opining that said individual was a concept but a complex enough one as to make perhaps even a good protagonist in a novel, I received an e-mail as I was getting my lecture together this afternoon saying "screw your class! write the novelization of me!!!!"
posted by jeremy at 12:26 AM | link |   

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

shiny happy people 

Meanwhile, just so you know, even despite some semester-related setbacks, the Great Upswing of 2004 continues. Really, truly; really, truly. I had a splendid 90 minute walk this afternoon in the Arboretum. Madison in Springtime is really a wonderful-wonderful place.

And, unless I make some desperate late night call to Glass Nickel Pizza, Day 3 and the diet-til-the-end-of-the-semester-diet is going swell.

I'm sorry I don't have more anguish to report. I know I write more amusing posts when I'm anguished, and so I apologize to you, the loyal reader.
posted by jeremy at 11:19 PM | link |   

my confessional playlist 

Topic of discussion with a friend today -- rate the seven deadly sins in terms of the trouble they have wrought for you over the course of your life. My rankings: (1) gluttony, (2) sloth, (3) pride, (4) lust, (5) wrath, (6) envy, (7) avarice.
posted by jeremy at 10:53 PM | link |   

dispatch from my bed 

Again, I continue to swoon over my new wireless capabilities. I recognize that I'm a little late in coming around to this whole wireless thing, but don't spoil my bliss...

When I'm not being fortified by my new enthusiasm for wireless, I keep thinking about the (repeated) line in Eternal Sunshine where Clementine says, "I am not a concept!" The line was especially apropos, of course, because you could easily see where Clementine really, at bottom, was pretty much a concept. I don't think she ever really moved past being a concept in the screenwriter and director's minds for example, although she was at least a pretty winning concept (my friend from Beauxbaton dissents furiously on this issue).

I'm trying now to think of which of the people I know are really basically concepts. (I mean, besides [insert name here].) Do people that are concepts know they are concepts? Is it a burden, having to be a concept all the time? Or is it like what Mark Twain said about how if you establish a reputation as a hard-worker you can thereafter sleep until noon--meaning that once you have established yourself as a concept, you can pretty much relax and everything you subsequently do will be seen in terms of the concept anyway.

And, then, of course, being ever-so-self-absorbed, I wonder if there are people who regard me as basically a concept. Or as someone who is aspiring to be a concept. God, how awful would that be to be seen as someone who was really wanting to be just a concept and yet couldn't pull it off and had to be relegated to the status of a conceptual poseur who couldn't get their act together enough to be anything more deftly defined or abstractly resonant than just, you know, another person.
posted by jeremy at 2:51 AM | link |   

(i mean it!) this diet is on! 

Forget those posts from however many months ago and the failed weight loss effort then. The current effort is centered around two things: (1) responsible eating for the final five weeks of this completely freakazoidic semester and (2) a conscious effort to have my body actually moving me from one place to another more, even if it is only walking and isn't anything anyone would really classify as exercise. Plus, the goal this time is really time (maknig it to the end of the semester, where we can reassess and go from there) rather than some specific weight target.

Wish me luck. History would suggest that I need it. Then again, if one pays too much attention to one's history then one never does anything. I will not be paralyzed by failed weight reduction projects past! More to the point, I will not be driven to the refrigerator or trodden down into a sedentary funk. I know of nothing that causes hope to swell so much as the first weeks of Spring's arrivial in Madison.
posted by jeremy at 2:00 AM | link |   

Monday, April 05, 2004

dispatch from my paprika twill armchair 

Once again, I'm celebrating the sense of empowerment I have from my new wireless setup. I'm sitting here in my armchair, watching the NCAA championship grade, while grading e-mailed assignments and blogging. I am unstoppable.

Now that the RV provides an increasingly cozy working environment, I feel increasingly tempted to avoid going up to campus as much as possible once my course is over this Spring.
posted by jeremy at 10:38 PM | link |   

worth one k words 

(Photo courtesy of a story in today's NYT.)
posted by jeremy at 2:54 AM | link |   

some readers weigh in 

In response to yesterday's plea, diet recommndations are coming in from various quarters. One reader indicated that they thought I would end up trying the Atkins because it offered "the easy way out," while another thought that I was being self-deluded in considering the Atkins becuase there is no way my flimsy willpower would be able to follow it. Here, however, was my favorite piece of reader advice regarding the Atkins diet:
I would advise against Atkins. First, it's hard to stick to in the long run (how long can you eat cheese sticks and tuna). Also, your mouth tastes filmy and you get keto-breath, which sort of tastes like sucking on a dime. Last, and please pardon my frankness here, but be prepared to never shit again. No amount of Metamucil can move 15 straight days of sirloin. I lasted like a week on it before I switched to South Beach.
posted by jeremy at 12:37 AM | link |   

Sunday, April 04, 2004

conversation with a first-time great grandmother 

"Please tell me her name is spelled D-E-L-A-N-E-Y."
"Yes. I mean, no. It's with an i on the end"
"Yes, I think so."
"Do they know that that anagrams to denial? And nailed?"
"I wonder who is going to look at that name and guess that it's pronounced duh-LANE-ee. I bet people will think it's deh-LAHN-ee or DEL-uh-nee."
"Well, how else are you going to spell it with an 'i'?"
"That's the thing, Mom. I wouldn't have spelled it with an 'i'."
"That's what the kids these days do.* They take a regular name and then they change a letter or two to be 'different.'"
"Except Delaney isn't exactly a regular name to start out with."

* Yes! She said "the kids these days"!
posted by jeremy at 11:08 PM | link |   

dispatch from my sofa 

After a couple of technical support calls, I have successfully got my wireless router up and running. So I can now connect from my laptop from anywhere in the RV! Now I'm walking around the RV, balancing my laptop and typing. I feel invincible! I'm King of the World!
posted by jeremy at 10:08 PM | link |   

crimes of forwarding, continued 

Being the youngest child in a family of much older siblings--Dahlia excepted--I have to not only worry about whether I've adopted various genes evinced in the oddities of my parents, but also those from my siblings. Most distressingly, lately, I'm worried that suddenly one day the hypergullibility gene that apparently afflicts at least one of my siblings will kick in. This gene causes her to e-mail the most ridiculous stories to me as though the phrase "urban legend" has not found its way through the kudzu to her outpost in Georgia. Alternatively, I wonder sometimes if my radical, almost impenetrable, skepticism--my suspicions about the credibility of almost everything--is basically the result of reacting against the various ridiculous things that were accepted as true by people around me while I was growing up.

Anyway, the most recent exhibit of boundless credulity was the following inspiring story of a brave seeing-eye dog on 9/11:
James Crane worked on the 101st floor of Tower 1 of the World Trade Center. He is blind so he has a golden retriever named Daisy. After the plane hit 20 stories below, James knew that he was doomed, so he let Daisy go, out of an act of love. She darted away into the darkened hallway. Choking on the fumes of the jet fuel and the smoke James was just waiting to die. About 30 minutes later, Daisy comes back along with James' boss, who Daisy just happened to pick up on floor 112.

On her first run of the building, she leads James, James' boss, and about 300 more people out of the doomed building. But she wasn't through yet, she knew there were others who were trapped. So, highly against James' wishes she ran back in the building.

On her second run, she saved 392 lives. Again she went back in. During this run, the building collapses. James hears about this and falls on his knees into tears. Against all known odds, Daisy makes it out alive, but this time she is carried by a firefighter. "She led us right to the people, before she got injured" the fireman explained.

Her final run saved another 273 lives. She suffered acute smoke inhalation, severe burns on all four paws, and a broken leg, but she saved 967 lives.
Set aside for the moment the difficult of squaring this account with the actual timeline of the collapse of Tower 1. Set aside also the issue of how the dog was navigating a collapsed building with a burned paws and a broken leg. Set aside even the issue of the dog being able to have that deep of an understanding of the demands of a completely novel emergency situation (believe it or not, terrorist attacks are not standard fare in the training of seeing eye dogs.)

How the hell is a dog going to lead hundreds of people to safety? And, given that the total number of non-plane casualties in the trade center bombings is currently listed as 2602, meaning that Daisy singlepawedly prevented a 37% increase in the number of casualties. Given the difficulties in even getting an accurate casualty count for 9/11, how on Earth could their be such a precise count of the number saved by a dog. It's like there is no sense of what kind of numbers are plausible numbers, and what kind of numbers are clearly just being pulled out of some fabricator's ass somewhere. Like I wonder if my sister would have been more likely to figure out if something was up if all these numbers had been multiplied by 2, or by 5, or if she would have believed them nonetheless.

It would be an interesting experiment to try to "seed" different urban legends with different levels of implausible numbers and see what the results would be for their spread. I've thought about leaving the aboveboard world of social science for an underground world where I just do data analysis on a weblog and then also do things involving fake websites and fake urban legend e-mails that would be somewhere between social science and performance art.
posted by jeremy at 1:54 PM | link |   

drawn and quartered 

SpamAssassin catches the vast majority of spam sent to me nowadays. Today, however, an e-mail slipped through from a cartoonist seeking work to draw custom cartoons to provide for company newsletters, etc.. His message included four sample cartoons from his portfolio, of which the above cartoon was one. Isn't this cartoon a little freaky, especially for a company newsletter? I mean, isn't a usual rule for company newsletters not to have cartoons that depict blood spurting out of someone's eye? Besides which, is this cartoon even, in any sense, funny, even for those of us whose sense of humor readily runs into the macabre? And this is supposed to be one of the four best examples of this guy's work?
posted by jeremy at 1:49 PM | link |   

more about my great niece 

I talked last night on the phone to my mom about my new great niece (i.e., my niece's daughter), and I am pleased to announce that she finally has a name: Delaney Grace Shannon [Surname]. Shannon is the name of my deceased sister. Grace is just trendy these days. I don't know where Delaney comes from. I hope to God I have the spelling right, or, at least, that it isn't Delanie, so she hasn't to deal with people pronouncing her last name like it rhymes with Melanie her whole life.
posted by jeremy at 1:09 AM | link |   

on today's menu: a heaping helping of crow 

As readers know, a little more than a month ago I bought a new car. Back then, I noted that the weaselly folks at Jon Lancaster Toyota said that my trade-in was basically worthless, but that they would give me $100 as a token trade-in. Since I just wanted to get that car out of my life, I was going to take the $100. However, a friend of mine said that this was silly and that I could get a lot more than $100 for the car if I put even minimal effort into selling it into myself. I didn't believe that there was anyone out there who would actually buy my car, or at least not for much more than $100.

An argument ensued, which ended with her agreeing to take on the responsibility to sell the car for me, and me agreeing that she could have almost all profit over the $155 that I was losing for not trading the car in ($100 + $55 for not transferring my old license plates). I only demanded the rights to two malts with extra malt as part of the deal. Anyway, I remember cackling about how this would be a lesson to my friend not to interfere in my affairs, since she was now trying to sell a car that had (1) a (recently and intermittently) broken speedometer, (2) a broken driver's side mirror, (3) a broken automatic seat belt mechanism, (4) a broken passenger seat adjuster (so it is stuck all the way forward), and (5) the "SERVICE ENGINE SOON" light always on (diagnosed as a problem with the sensors responsible for the light, rather than anything with the operation of the car itself). And all kinds of little dings everywhere. Granted, some of these problems might be easy to fix, but, still... who was going to give any money for a car with so many obvious things wrong with it?

My friend advertised the car at $1200 or best offer. "Good luck," I told her, "Nobody's even going to look at it for that price." Indeed, most people that called did not want to look at it after she listed all of its various problem. But, of course, she didn't need to sell the car to most people, but just one sucker out there. And, lo, one person came to look at it and offered $800 cash. "Take it!" I shouted into my cel phone, "Take it! Take it! No one else is going to be that insane! Take it now!" She smugly declined, saying that she thought she'd be able to get more from somebody else if she held out.

Sure enough, the car sold earlier today for $1050, cash in hand.

I don't know when was the last time I have been in such a situation where really nothing else could be said other than: "Hmm. It appears undeniable that you were completely right about that, and I was completely and profoundly wrong."

At least it was something about money. I'm always pretty free in admitting that I am clueless in many monetary matters. And, I'm certainly glad to have my friend get the profits from this transaction than having the profits go to the weasels at Jon Lancaster Toyota. I feel especially good that I pulled the trade at the last minute, because I can convince myself that I got a better price on the car itself because they thought they were going to get to screw me over on the trade-in.
posted by jeremy at 12:25 AM | link |   

Saturday, April 03, 2004

you have nothing to lose but your chains. and, well, maybe, money. 

Special Update: Despite its seeming intention and language to the contrary, the post below has been classified as an "anti-union musing" by a member of the UW TAA union. Read at your own risk!

The graduate student union here has moved closer to holding a strike. Awhile back, they had the vote on whether they would vote to have a vote on the strike. This passed, so then maybe ten days ago they had the vote on whether to vote to strike. This also passed, and so now they are gathering petitions from students on their committment to strike if the strike vote passes, and then once they get enough signatures, they will have the actual vote to strike.

According to one student active in the union, if they strike, my graduate student class can/will still meet, just so long as I arrange for some location off campus. Fine with me; sounds like it might even be fun.

But anyway, one of the things that the union is doing to raise awareness of their case is to hand around these tables that compare the compensation given to teaching assistants here with the compensation provided by some other universities. Included are some examples where the Wisconsin TAs are not well compensated relative to TAs at universities where the cost of living is comparable and where the graduate students are not unionized. While the table does make plain the credibility of the union's current actions, it also raises a puzzle. At first I raised it facetiously, but now I'm really wondering about it.

Basically: The Wisconsin TAs have been unionized for quite a long time; the idea of unions is that they help to secure better job arrangements for employees; and yet, according to this table, the unionized TAs at Wisconsin presently receive less compensation relative to some seemingly comparable places without unionized TAs. How can the union have been improving the lot of graduate students all these years if the graduate students here have a relatively bad situation relative to non-unionized peer institutions?

Seriously, what's up? I can think of only 5 possibilities (in no particular order, and excluding combinations thereof):

1. The table, in one way or another, provides somehow a misleadingly low picture of the compensation provided to Wisconsin TAs relative to compensation at other universities. There could be benefits that should be included in the total amount of compensation that aren't, etc..

2. The union really has been, to date, almost completely ineffective--and perhaps even harmful--to advancing the economic interests of the students it represents.

3. The orientation toward TAs by the state of Wisconsin is, for whatever reason, so nasty that even though the current situation for the unionized TAs looks bad compared to other institutions, graduate students would be even further behind other schools if not for the union.

3b. Basically #3, but adding also that the orientation toward TAs by the state of Wisconsin has been so historically bad that this helps explain the early unionization of the TAs here to begin with. So, in other words, very bad past compensation of TAs caused unionization and is also associated with the still bad (but not as bad as it would be) compensation of TAs in the present.

4. The union has been effective in improving compensation and conditions for TAs here at Wisconsin, but the union has been even more effective in improving compensation and conditions for TAs at universities that wish to keep their graduate students from unionizing. See this anti-unionization webpage at Penn. Note also: at Indiana (where I got my Ph.D.), grad students who got excited about unionization were always reminded that sociology graduate students had it better than graduate students in other departments (which was true), and so unionization would only harm the sociology students. I never found that argument very credible, although it did seem to prevent any real momentum toward unionization within the sociology department. One year, when the threat of unionization did seem to be gaining ground on campus, over the issue of the truly awful health care plan we were given, the university did soon come up with a better plan, lending more credency to Possibility #4.

Is there some other possibility that I'm not thinking of? If not, which of these seems the most plausible?
posted by jeremy at 7:08 PM | link |   

really! i'm serious this time! 

Okay, remember that last year I tried the strategy of dieting and recording the progress of this diet on the weblog. Right now, I weigh almost exactly what I did when I started this dieting effort last year. I have recently had some friend's make supportive comments about the bodily status quo, including the generous remark: "Your obesity will not affect our friendship. It is of no concern to me how grossly obese you become."*

I am circling the airport of making another attempt and this, and I need to decide the particular dieting strategy to follow. I have been given several recent dietary recommendations. Let's make a list:

(A) Atkins diet, while remaining a pescatarian (someone who eats no meat other than seafood). The Atkins diet has been a dramatic success for a couple of my colleagues.

(B) South Beach diet, remaining pescatarian. The South Beach diet has been described to me as a more realistic and modest version of the Atkins diet.

(C) Some version of (A) and (B) where I go back to eating beef and chicken and pork with renewed vigor.

(D) The Cheese and Nut Diet, where I spend a month eating only cheese (any kind) and nuts (any kind) and vitamin pills (any kind).

(E) Some amorphous version of the "eat less and move more" philosophy once espoused as part of a millenial cult organized by Rosie O'Donnell.

Any ideas about the above options? Further recommendations? Please, let me know.

* Yes! A real, exact quotation. You know who you are.
posted by jeremy at 6:35 PM | link |   

Thursday, April 01, 2004

if you marry a chicken, do not follow a dog 

A post on NinaNet today discusses a recent lecture by a visiting Taiwanese professor. The professor gave a couple of examples of old Chinese proverbs that no longer have the cultural force that they did. One of these proverbs translates as “Marry a chicken, follow a chicken, marry a dog, follow a dog.” What in the world does this mean? Is it just "If you marry a loser, you shouldn't complain later about how you've married a loser," or is it something different?
posted by jeremy at 10:57 PM | link |   

me in a nutshell, continued 

As I was about to begin the lecture in my methods class today, a kind student sitting up front discreetly put the following note on my desk:
posted by jeremy at 10:42 PM | link |   


...April Fools' Day is here, and I've done nothing to prepare. Alas. So much wasted opportunity. I guess at least I have a fallback excuse if I end up saying something wildly erroneous in the course of tomorrow's methods lecture.

I wonder if I could dig up a copy of the April Fools' edition of the sociology department newsletter that we did back in graduate school. I wonder if today it would seem like something that was genuinely funny, funny-but-mostly-in-a-nostalgic-way-kind-of-funny, or something that was not really funny and only seemed hilarious back then because of the context.
posted by jeremy at 3:59 AM | link |   

frequently asked questions about jeremy, continued 

Q: Wouldn't Jeremy rather be asleep right now?

A: Yes.

Q: Is he up working, or is it just that he's having trouble sleeping?

A: The latter.

Q: Didn't he have trouble sleeping last night as well?

A: Indeed.

Q: Isn't he going to be awfully tired when he has to teach tomorrow afternoon?

A: Likely so.

Q: But this still doesn't justify his self-pitying turns in his weblog, does it?

A: No, he really needs to stop being such a weblog wallower.

Q: I mean, it really gets pretty excessive, don't you think?

A: I know, I know, it's like he's some kind of compulsive cyber-sulker or something.
posted by jeremy at 3:50 AM | link |   

(timesuck) every little thing google does is magic 

As you know, I use Google not only as my search engine but also instead of, e.g., bookmarks, a dictionary, a spell checker, a phone book, a life. If you too are a constant Googler and have never checked out the Google Labs, you should. I've become recently enamored of the Google Deskbar, which allows you to Google away without even having to open your browser. But possibly the coolest thing, although I raise the issue now even though I'm too tired to construct examples indicative of its merits and powers, are the Google Sets. Type in actors, musicians, geographical locations, dwarves, reindeer names, whatever, and watch it try to figure out what else would belong in that group.
posted by jeremy at 1:35 AM | link |   

students who complain about my classes: consider the alternatives 

Various websites exist that collect and provide student evaluations of college instructors. Thanks to a reader from Upper Paleolithic, ID for alerting me to this set of comments on one site for a social science professor at a university dear to their heart:
For REAL, this professor should be disbarred. He once brought a bat to class and starting pacing up and down the aisle while we were taking the test!. Some guy starting crying and he held the bat over the guys head and said "you kids won't care until you see a musharoom CLOUD"!! I was like OH MY GOD! I think the guy even wet his pants. What the hell is a mushoroom cloud??

Oh my god! He showed us all these movies on Nuclear war, and these girls were cryin' during and he locked the door to the classroom. this other time he made this fat kid eat a snickers bar in front of class cause the wrapper made too much noise. WARNING: DO NOT TAKE THIS PROFESSOR, he should be taken out of [school] in a white coat!!!

I cant believe this guy... He screamed at the classes I showed up to and he read this kid's paper to the class and said, "It's a good paper, if you have [expletive] for brains" I went to his office hours to make up an exam and he said that I wasn't interupting him, but that everytime someone bother's him, it messes up his train of thought and he got real angry, bottom line: don't take this guy, he's really messed UP!

Okay this guy is totally nuts. I asked him about the exam and he screeched like a gremlin "[expletive] off". I couldn't believe it, it was awesome. One day, he stood up a classmate who said something dumb and wrote logical equations on his face with marker. He was laughing up a storm too... He would yell like a drill instructor during exams, he thought it was motivational or something he said. Also, sometimes he wouldn't come to class at all but leave a message about a present he left in a bag in the front of the class.] It was a bag of feces, that sick [expletive.*

On the first day of class he came in and put a paper bag down on the desk, when someone said something he said was unlogical or something, he lit a pack of matches and held it up near the bag and said, "You better shut up before I throw this flaming bag of dog[expletive] at you!"*
* Fine, but, what professor hasn't done this at least once? Let s/he without guilt cast the first flaming bag of dog[expletive].
posted by jeremy at 12:44 AM | link |