Chris Uggen's Blog: December 2006

Sunday, December 31, 2006

steve sack and a pretty-much-free press

my favorite year in review stories are those showcasing the local paper's political cartoonist. maybe that's because the best cartoons always strike me as inherently sociological -- putting big concepts into play around a particular case. as today's story makes clear, my minneapolis strib is fortunate indeed to get regular images from steve sack.

op-eds are great, of course, but there's a magical whoa! moment when a fine cartoonist nails a complex set of ideas in a single image. the conceptual weight of such pictures can make the accompanying editorial seem ridiculously oversimplified by comparison. would a windy sociological essay on the meaning of civilization and its incompatibility with torture pack the same punch as the cartoon above?

i treasure my daily encounters with such powerful material over strong coffee and wheaties. too often, i suppose, we take these first amendment moments for granted. as cartoonists found themselves at the center of intense religious conflict this year, i was glad to see that few seemed to shrink from the controversy. if you agree, you might browse daryl cagle's rich archive of political cartoons, including many by mr. sack. did any cartoons move you this year?

Friday, December 29, 2006

and you thought bmi was just for songwriters

i use a powerpoint presentation of the cdc's trends in obesity slides in discussing bodies and moral panics. people often ask where i get such slides, and i pretty much just borrow them from the cdc website and pop them into my lecture by right-clicking, cutting, and pasting. all this is based on something called the body mass index or bmi, which, in turn, is based on very simple height/weight charts.

my personal bmi has risen rapidly in my first few months as chair, from a borderline normal score of 24.4 to an overweight score of 27.1. my points are well-earned, but athletes don't like the bmi because it doesn't adjust for muscle mass or buffitude.

for wrestlers (and runway models, i suppose), weight loss is a bigger health concern than obesity. since b.m.i. doesn't really work for athletes, each minnesota high school wrestler must be certified to wrestle at particular weights based on more sophisticated procedures. they must obtain:

a minimum wrestling weight at 7% body weight using skinfold measurements or water displacement.

The addition this year requires all student-athletes who are determined to be below 7% body fat at the time of weight certification to verify they are properly hydrated. These athletes will submit a sample of urine to the skinfold technician who will then determine the hydration via a refractometer or a dip stick. The urine specific gravity must be 1.025 or less. The hydration test must be conducted by the certified skinfold technician.

yeesh. at our local high school, a physician conducts the skin fold test to identify the lowest possible weight for each wrestler. a parent then signs a form to approve the weight as a lower-bound or choose some higher weight to be the year's absolute minimum. fortunately, this was a no-brainer for tor. based on his skinfold test, he's gotta be a heavyweight. even if he could drop down to 215 pounds for a match, he wouldn't be certified to wrestle below 285. according to the bmi, in contrast, his weight would still be in the normal range at 160 pounds at 6'6" tall. yeah, right.

i'm sure there are plenty of loopholes and workarounds, but i generally like this system. as the parent of an actor/singer/dancer, i just wish they'd adopt a similar procedure for the stage kids.

outing high achievers

i always try to inform students when they do exceptional work in my classes. a few years ago, i'd publicly out them in class as high-achievers. this was exhilirating but risky. though most said it felt great and helped cement their identity as an academic or sociologist, one said it felt awful to be identified as the top-scorer in a stats class. so i've been quietly emailing top students lately, just to show them that somebody noticed how they went above and beyond "A" work.

of the 80 students in my deviance class last semester, 3 stood out as exceptional. i won't out them online, but they include a minnversity football player who aspires to work in the state department, a psychology major interested in law school, and a native minneapolitan who seems (to me) destined for grad study in soc or crim. i could go on to name many more outstanding students, but it isn't as much fun without blogging their names and faces.

i think most academics have some story about a professor pulling them aside as an undergrad to say that they write beautifully or that they were really, really, smart or that if they didn't go to graduate school it would be a crime. these sorts of experiences were likely turning points for me and for many of my colleagues. in the rush to finish the semester's grading, i try to make time to pass such sentiments along. i don't usually push hard for grad school, but i want to at least present our top undergrads with the option. in the absence of such you've-got-the-goods, kid encouragement, how many of us would have seen the possibility?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

we're sorry, but we were unable to complete your request

argh! i upgraded to the new version of blogger and have had more than a leetle difficulty updating my pubcrim site with michelle inderbitzin. we'll figure it out eventually, but one more iteration of We're sorry, but we were unable to complete your request will put me over the edge. has anyone else run into such problems?

justice talking

i just heard my october interview on npr's justice talking show about felon voting. for some chair/meeting-related reason, i had to run to the kfai studios that day, so i arrived winded and overcaffeinated in the midst of a pledge drive (hint: diet coke is a no-no before on-air interviews).

i liked the show and its host, margot adler, so i'm disappointed that the program isn't carried locally. they asked me for a quick "big-picture overview" on felon disenfranchisement, which is fine with me. my bit preceded a more intense debate between spencer overton and john lott on the subject. i really dislike debating, so i usually decline invitations to argue for or against policy changes. part of this is due to my self-concept as a social scientist, but part of it is because i'm a ridiculously conciliatory debater (yeah, i can sort of see your point there, mr. rumsfeld. are we almost done here?). i'm probably not alone -- many of us are probably more at home doing the "current state of knowledge" segment rather than the "what is to be done?" portion of such programs.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

best logo appropriation

here's a post-christmas gift for that special minnesota music dork/baseball geek on your list. this $15 hold steady tee artfully wraps our semi-local buzz band in some beloved old twins iconography.

the original is known to locals as the 2 guys logo, as it features a minneapolitan (helpfully labeled M) and a st. paulite (correspondingly labeled S), reaching across the mississippi river in a grand gesture of cooperative partnership (hey, let's stop fighting and call 'em the minnesota twins!). such symbolism had a profound impact during my card-collecting elementary school days and it helps convey how big-time pro sports landed in the frozen north. i'd still like to believe that a lot can be accomplished with a firm handshake, a pat on the back, and a spirit of cooperation.

Monday, December 25, 2006

keeping talent on board

much of a department chair's emotional energy goes toward hiring and retaining our fine faculty and staff. today i read a simple piece on maintaining a vibrant workplace in my accountant's li'l email newsletter. usually the articles don't seem relevant to my work, but this one might fit academic shops especially well.

Here are seven smart workplace characteristics that can keep top employees satisfied:

An entrepreneurial environment. Talented employees are motivated by the opportunity to be part of an actively growing company where they can make a difference.

A relaxed dress code. Many companies of all sizes have discovered that their employees are more relaxed — and therefore more efficient — in casual garb.

Diverse responsibilities. A workplace where employees are continually challenged is ideal for recruitment and retention.

Teamwork. The feeling of being part of a team develops motivated, satisfied employees who feel a stronger connection to their colleagues.

Flexible schedules. By accommodating employees’ personal commitments, companies establish an environment that is focused on good performance, rather than a "punch-the-clock” mentality.

Feedback and communication. A talented employee thrives on making an impact, so he or she is usually bursting with ideas and feedback. This is a strength, not an annoyance. Take advantage of it.

Mentors and coaches. Mentoring and coaching is not the same as managing and supervising. The difference lies in useful interaction between new and veteran staff members.

hey, we can and should do all that! where is the dress code more relaxed than in a sociology department? plus, our responsibilities seem rather diverse and we're intellectual entrepreneurs at heart. as in any organization, i suppose, academic departments must cultivate a collegial and creative intellectual environment if they want to keep good people.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

burnsie's night before christmas

bud grant, the stoic minnversity athlete and vikings coach, still stands as a great icon of minnesota sports. but vikings fans also look back fondly on the burnsie years from 1986-1991. unlike mr. grant, the quick-tempered mr. burns wore his heart on his sleeve. he was burgess meredith in purple, the very personification of crusty.

all manner of local radio stations still replay his obscenity-laced tirades, and one still plays a spot-on impersonation of uncle burnsie reciting twas the night before christmas. the references to tommy kramer and rick fenney will only register with vikings die-hards, but it brought a chuckle on my run yesterday.

Friday, December 22, 2006

mmm... feels like grandma's kitchen

we stopped on minneapolis' lake street today, to pick up on the aura and forty pounds of nordic delicacies at ingebretsen's. though the neighborhood changes with each successive wave of immigrants, ingebretsen's hasn't changed too much since 1921.

amanda uggen emigrated to st. paul, though she would regularly venture across the mississippi for ingebretsen's magnificent deli counter. she's been gone for several years, but i can still feel her each time i crowd in among the familiar scents and the other grandmothers taking numbers at ingebretsen's busy counter.

here's this year's christmas eve menu, adapted from grandma amanda's:

- sweet gjetost and havarti cheese, along with smoked fish and flatbrød
- lefse and limpe bread or
julekake, with butter, sugar, fresh lingonberry sauce and cloudberries
- pork ribs, cracked lengthwise and baked [not barbecued]
- meatballs
- potatoes, mashed and sweet
- something green -- beans or broccoli or ...
- cookies! some combination of
fattigman, krumkake, sandbakkels, rosettes, berlinerkranser ...
- rice pudding with fresh raspberry sauce

the pudding is served in glasses, but only one glass contains the almond entitling the bearer to a special gift. i don't know whether my grandparents were true to the traditions on their family farms, much less their fidelity to their norwegian and swedish heritage. i suspect that each generation adapts the menu based on individual tastes and local circumstances.

in this uggen's house, we made a strategic deletion from the menu. tor and hope were forced to taste lutefisk -- described rather well by garrison keillor as a repulsive gelatinous fishlike dish that tasted of soap -- but only once.* it seems cruel to serve vile lutefisk repeatedly, especially to those too young to toss it back with shots of aquavit.** still, my grandmother savored it, served with just a little ... oh no! you can't be serious! ... maple syrup. i suppose someday we'll animate another batch of lutefisk in her honor, perhaps in the shed way behind the house. i mean, the stuff was flying off the shelves at ingebretsen's tonight.

no deli can return me to my grandmother or my favorite christmas eves, but i'm happily amazed that i can still catch a whiff of her kitchen on lake street.

*more keillor: "this dread delicacy would be put before me and I’d be told, "Just have a little." Eating a little was like vomiting a little, just as bad as a lot."

**it would be difficult to improve on the explanation offered here, so i will quote it at length: To understand the relationship between aquavit and lutefisk, here's an experiment you can do at home. In addition to aquavit, you will need a slice of lemon, a cracker, a dishtowel, ketchup, a piece of lettuce, some caviar, and a Kit-Kat candy bar.

1. Take a shot of aquavit.
2. Take two. (They're small.)
3. Put a bit of caviar on a bit of lettuce.
4. Put the lettuce on a cracker.
5. Squeeze some lemon juice on the caviar.
6. Pour some ketchup on the Kit-Kat bar.
7. Tie the dishtowel around your eyes.

If you can taste the difference between caviar on a cracker and ketchup on a Kit-Kat while blindfolded, you have not had enough aquavit to be ready for lutefisk. Return to step one.

new networked lab opens 1/18

hey friends, start thinkin' up some good experiments! a new networked computer lab opens for business in january.

we'll have 44 workstations, e-prime software, and some fine technical support staff. in such shared lab facilities, early users get great access and rarely have to pay for it. i expect that faculty and grads from econ and psych will lead the way, but i can think of some way cool soc and crim applications as well.

Please join us for the grand opening of the College of Liberal Arts Social and Behavioral Sciences Laboratory (SBSL)

Thursday, January 18, 2006
4:00 – 5:00 p.m.
170 Anderson Hall (West Bank)

- Reception
- Opening remarks by Dean Steven Rosenstone
- Tour of the new experimental research laboratory
- Presentation of programming and survey services
- Hands-on demonstration of equipment and software (3:00 – 4:00 p.m.)

The Social and Behavioral Sciences Laboratory consists of a networked, human subject research laboratory with 44 workstations in 170 Anderson Hall and an eye-tracking device that will be installed in 25 Blegen Hall by March 2007. Workstation carrels can be configured in rows or clusters depending on particular research needs. Each computer is pre-loaded with E-Prime run-time and the lab can install a variety of other software on request. Most workstations are equipped with LCD displays, headphones, and Psychology Software Tools Serial Response Boxes.

The staffing of the lab includes a research consultant (Kemal Badur), a lab manager (John Easton), and technical support (Pernu Menheer). The CLA Office for Information Technology has a programming team under Karen Bencke, which can help with selected research-support programming.

It is possible immediately to schedule blocks of time for conducting computer-based human subject research in this lab, given IRB approval of your application to them, and with suitable preparation with the lab personnel to support your experimental design. Please contact Kemal Badur, 612-625-0567, or John Easton, 612-625-1079 for more information.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

the most singularly pathetic talent in the world?

ipodization is enlivening broadcast radio, mostly by expanding and diversifying playlists. i love the periodic "a-to-z" marathons, in which classic rawk stations take us from a day in the life to ziggy stardust over the course of a week. on a long sunday run, it can be jarring good fun to hear sweet jane on the heels of sweet home alabama or cinnamon girl b/w cisco kid.

anyone my age can guess that white room will probably follow white rabbit, of course, but it takes a real geek to suss out that donny iris' ah leah! and steely dan's aja are comin' up behind after the gold rush. so now i've got this completely useless (and really kind of pathetic) talent for prognostication, based solely on my tight knowledge of the alphabet and my wildly misspent youth. i can amaze my friends and family but they ain't exactly impressed, if you know what i mean.

of course, these a-to-z efforts serve to remind listeners of all the great songs that aren't being played on the radio. to take but one example, i got a sniff of the old jeff beck group this week, which moved me to dust off truth and beck-ola for my guitar protege, young esperanza. the jeff beck group had the same basic structure as led zeppelin, with a flash guitarist (mr. beck was the flash guitarist in the page/clapton cohort*), a powerful singer in rod stewart, a talented multi-instrumental bassist in ron wood, and a muscular drummer. i ain't superstitious and beck's bolero brought smiles from the kid and they still sounded pretty good to me. the liner notes are also good fun, in a spinal tappish sort of way:

...this must be played at maximum volume whatever phonograph you use. Makes very appropriate background music if you have the Vicar for tea.

...Probably the rudest sounds ever recorded, intended for listening to whilst angry or stoned. Last note of song is my guitar being sick - well so would you be if I smashed your guts for 2:28.

...Stolen riff from old "Howlin' Wolf" tune, but he doesn't mind because I asked him. This number is more or less an excuse for being flash on guitar.

within a few short years of these albums, however, mr. wood was a rolling stone, mr. beck was doing fusion, and mr. stewart was doing everybody else (do ya think i'm sexy?). fortunately, one can get remastered versions of both classic albums today. though video seems scarce, youtube offers audio on plynth from beck-ola, as well as shapes, morning dew, let me love you, and beck's bolero from truth. if there's an old metalhead or skronky young guitarist on your shopping list, you might just consider putting a little jbg under the tree.

*i spent a few years trying to learn jeff's boogie, and got about as far as this. or maybe this.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

her generation

i've blogged overmuch on amateur sports and guitars, but i just couldn't resist this striking shot of ariana kukors of washington's mountain view high school.

ms. kukors, an olympic-caliber swimmer, executed a perfect pete townshend windmill. if the right arm looks just right to you as well, credit photographer andy rogers of the seattle post-intelligencer and, of course, the patient ms. kukors.

let's hope ms. kukors didn't incur any windmill-related injuries that would keep her from the beijing games.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

making big boxy ltd's

the united auto workers union once had 1.5 million members. with the closing of the grand old st. paul ford plant, however, membership is dipping under 500,000 (honda and toyota are building more cars in the u.s. these days, but mostly in non-union shops). the strib and pi-press are documenting ford workers' transitions out of their tough but well-compensated primary sector jobs.

this week, doug grow offers a nice feature on denny dickhausen, who wrote my life at ford as part of a writers' workshop with mark nowak of the college of st. catherine.

By Denny Dickhausen
UAW 879

August 1970
I began working
at Ford
Making big boxy LTD’s.
After a week I’m saying,
Will I ever learn this job?
Ýou’ll get it one of these days,”
says Jimmy Cobb.
Just walking to my car
turns out to be a job.
My wife says it can’t be that hard.
I tell her, You work in that damn place!
The next week
Jimmy’s smoking a cigarette
and drinking coffee
between cars.
(We were steaming headliners
and cleaning up scrap nuts and bolts.)
Jimmy says, “Do you think
this white boy will ever get this?”

Then, one day, I got it.
Jimmy says, “What happened today?
You finally have a chance
to take a breath between cars!”
What a great feeling.
Thirty-six years later
Ford said it’s closing our plant.
What a shock. My friends cried.
Some almost died.
What will they do
(including my daughter, 32
who works on the sealer line)
thrown away like an old shoe.
Is forty old? Is fifty?
I say it’s a crock.
I grew up, I grew old at Ford.
I bled at Ford.
I feel used up.

good stuff, eh? those 1970 ltds still look sweet to me...

Monday, December 18, 2006

a genuine official vote-counter

in my capacity as chair, i performed a fun ceremonial duty today, counting the votes for an important election in a neighboring social science department. a department representative brought the ballot box to my office, where we tallied the votes to determine the next chair. in sociology, our administrative staff have this responsibility. because the staff is formally supervised by the current chair, however, i can see the merits in having a disinterested party count the votes.

should jimmy carter ever tire of monitoring elections, i'm happy to step in on a temporary basis. florida, ohio, and certain districts in minnesota would be okay, i suppose, but i'm crossing my fingers for a jamaican election this winter.

Friday, December 15, 2006

at least mayo is right around the corner

i'm off to the minnesota christmas tournament in rochester to see a whole lotta wrestling this weekend. the lad has been winning in his first varsity year, but he remains the upstart sophomore heavyweight in the upstart 'stang program. tor is in a bracket with some of the best in the country, including the state's top-ranked heavy and others in the top 10.

i've been masking my concerns for his well-being (not fears, mind you, just concerns) with lame attempts at gallows humor:

#3. oh sure, they're stronger, faster, and more experienced. but you're unorthodox, dude, nobody wants to wrestle you.
#2. we're in rochester, man, you'll have the best doctors in the world!
#1. Q: dad, do you really want to drive 100 miles just to see me get my azz kicked?
A: son, i'd drive 200 miles just to see you get your azz kicked.

update: the lads from mounds view held their own this weekend, and tor took a couple friday matches before succumbing on saturday to the big fella from totino grace (above). the heavyweight matches seemed especially tough, but no major injuries were reported.

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Thursday, December 14, 2006

not the retiring kind?

according to new nsf data, sociologists appear to have a higher rate of retirement than other social scientists. unfortunately, these retirements are not necessarily creating new tenure-track job openings. as inside higher ed reports today, sociologists also have a higher rate of unemployment than other social scientists. while the retirement rate for sociologists nearly doubled from 6.2 percent to 11.7 percent between 1993 and 2003, the unemployment rate doubled as well, from 1.3 percent to 2.6 percent.

my uneducated guess is that there was a bigger post-war surge in sociology phd production relative to, say, psychology, and that these folks are now retiring. i'm baffled as to why sociology suddenly has a significantly higher unemployment rate than psychology or political science, but a base rate of 2.6 percent is still pretty close to full employment

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

the answer is no

esperanza's hoop dreams have piqued my interest in basketball, so i'm intrigued by the rumors putting allen iverson in wolves clothing. nobody plays harder than the man they call the answer and i'm all about the effort.

because i love music as much as sports, however, i can't forget the controversy surrounding mr. iverson's aborted career as a hip hop artist. his 40 bars is a hateful, misogynistic, homophobic rant -- and that was just the first single. sorry, i can't imagine cheering for this guy no matter how much glory he brings to my star-crossed wolves.

until i hear mr. iverson strongly distance himself from such sentiments, the answer is just an old frank marino song to me.


courtney love has successfully completed rehab and probation and is now officially off-paper. judge rand rubin terminated ms. love's probation early when she finished a substance abuse treatment program. according to reuters, ms. love entered guilty pleas in 2004 and 2005 to some [silly] drug charges and pleaded no contest to [scary] assault charges in 2005:

Love was accused of dousing King with a bottle of Johnnie Walker Red Label scotch, throwing a lit candle at her head and pinching her breast. The attack came after Love found King sleeping on a couch at the home of Love's ex-boyfriend.

of course, this is no isolated incident. ms. love has had more than her share of legal problems over the years: juvenile and adult, criminal and civil, property and violent, trumped-up and let-off-easy. maybe i've got a soft spot for 42-year-olds named c-love, but i'm hoping this was her last pass through the criminal justice system.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

advice: pair off in threes and line up in a circle

what's the best advice you've ever received? for me, it came from larry wu during my latter years as a wizversity grad student. he said, "remember that not all advice is good advice."

this was wonderfully useful because it gave me permission to ignore certain advice that i couldn't reconcile with other advice, or my personal values, or my strong gut feelings. people usually try to offer helpful opinions and feedback, but advisees often find themselves pulled in too many disparate directions when they take it all seriously, especially when the disparate advisors all seem very sure of themselves.

i find that most of my advice is either too simplistic to be of much use (forget about everything but publishing your diss), or it is balanced and contradictory (you need to publish this year, but don't neglect your classes). that's why i love the title quote for this post, taken from the late bill peterson, who coached football at florida state university, rice university, and the nfl's houston oilers. whenever you face complicated new situations, it seems as though people are instructing you to pair off in threes and line up in a circle or to line up alphabetically by height. if we took all the advice seriously, our heads might explode.

as chair, of course, i must provide clear, consistent, and thoughtful advice, especially when speaking with graduate students and junior faculty. nevertheless, it is incumbent upon the advisor to admit when more information is needed to prescribe a clear line of action, or when multiple paths seem equally advantageous, or when there are others more expert in the matter at hand. when people need serious advice about a tough decision, i typically first seek advice about the proper advice to give them. or, i'll try out my proposed advice on someone with a different perspective, just to learn whether i've missed something important.

i can always pop off with an opinion, of course. if i'm not careful, this can lead to messages that are mixed or, more charitably, layered (e.g., ok, as chair i need to tell you to do X, but i can see how Y sounds really cool to you; i'd probably just do Z and regret it in a year). when people seek my advice today, i usually try to figure out what they really want to do and then try to discern whether there's anything terribly wrong with this preferred course of action. if so, i'll point out major pitfalls clearly (this could set you back another year) and then offer a personal opinion (you still haven't convinced me that the benefits outweigh the costs, so i wouldn't do it. am i missing something?). still, i'll try to leave a face-saving out for folks who choose to ignore my advice (i really hope you prove me wrong on this one...).

finally, i'll remind them of professor wu's admonition: not all advice is good advice, whether it comes from me or anywhere else.


Monday, December 11, 2006

myers-briggs: i thought ENFP was an all-sports cable network

i recently took a myers-briggs personality test as part of a minnversity leadership program. completing the assessment, i wondered about test-retest reliability, response biases, and whether carl jung was looking over my shoulder.

i get nervous about any psychological test (well, professor uggen, we don't usually recommend immediate hospitalization, but in your case...), but i tried to answer the questions honestly. my results classified me as enfp, which indicates: extraversion (rather than introversion); intuition (rather than sensing); feeling (rather than thinking) [ouch.]; and, perceiving (rather than judging).

i think of myself as data-driven and logical, so this classification was surprising. the ENFP descriptions seem pleasant enough and reasonable, but so do my horoscopes on most days. it was useful, however, to read materials that applied the personality characteristics to communication style, decision making, and dealing with change and conflict. for example, we ENFPs should be aware that people may think you have no real opinions or that you're hiding your real views with regard to communication. we're also urged to recognize that there are real costs involved in pursuing novelty and to monitor the timing of when you give up on consensus and push to action.

points taken. while i don't necessarily buy the whole jungian/myers-briggs scheme, the test was useful for self-examination. plus, i learned that mark twain, alicia silverstone, will rogers, andy kaufman, jack black, and tina fey are also ENFPs. maybe i should consider a career as a cantankerous curmudgeon or sketch comedian. fictional ENFPs include ariel from the little mermaid and steve urkel (not the actor who played urkel, mind you, but urkel).

if you'd like to take the test yourself, there are a few freebies of unknown quality out there. i'm going to keep taking the test until i can generate a higher score on thinking.


Saturday, December 09, 2006

re-bound, re-bound!

this morning, esperanza said she was definitely scoring in hoops today.

"that's cool," i began, "but --"

she interrupted to complete the sentence:

"-- i know, i know, you like rebounds."

i can't play basketball, but i'd much rather see my kids hustling and rebounding than jacking up shots. much as i loved pistol pete, i'd prefer they emulate bill russell. rebounds, like mr. russell's 11 championship rings, are earned.

well, the young mustangs defeated hated st. anthony today, mostly by crashing the boards, cleaning the glass, and, yes, even scoring a few points. my gopher men's team, in contrast, has had a tough time of late. i didn't see today's 67-66 loss to arkansas-little rock, but this blurb from the recap was especially disappointing:

"the Trojans dominated Minnesota (4-7) on the boards, outrebounding the Gophers 43-16, including 18-3 on the offensive glass. Arkansas-Little Rock scored 17 points off second and third chances. At one point in the second half, the frustrated home crowd began chanting "Re-Bound!" instead of the traditional "De-Fense!"

sixteen boards? to put this number in perspective, mr. russell alone averaged 20 rebounds per game in college and 23 rebounds per game as a professional. the gophers' performance doesn't bode well for the big-10 season, especially since arkansas-little rock does not have a player taller than 6'8".

at least gopher wrestling is doing well, knocking off #1-ranked oklahoma state with authority. the lad has trained hard for his epic high school heavyweight battles this season. as in rebounding, i suppose, success in wrestling is earned.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

annual curtiss a. / john lennon show tonight

one of my all-time favorite voices is singing john lennon tonight at first avenue. a boozy impromptu tribute 27 years ago has become a heartfelt tradition. curtiss a., one of the real good guys from the formative days of minneapolis punk, still reigns supreme as the dean of scream. the man flat puts out live -- sort of a mix between james brown, howlin' wolf, and an overcaffeinated paul mccartney. doors are 7:00 and tickets are twelve bucks at 701 1st ave. n. in minneapolis (612.332.1775).

still don't think its worth venturing out on a cold minnesota night? just imagine this voice doing cold turkey and instant karma with love. 'nuff said.

here's last year's set list:

1. (Just Like) Starting Over
2. Revolution
3. Free As A Bird
4. And Your Bird Can Sing
5. Real Love
6. The Word
7. Across the Universe
8. Instant Karma! (All Shine On)
9. She Said, She Said
10. Tomorrow Never Knows
11. A Day In The Life --> We Can Work It Out --> A Day In The Life
12. Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds
13. Strawberry Fields
14. I Am The Walrus
15. Glass Onion
16. Sexy Sadie
17. Dear Prudence
18. The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill
19. Happiness is a Warm Gun
20. Hey Bulldog
21. Everybody’s Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey
22. Come Together
23. I Want You (She’s So Heavy)
-set break-
24. Give Peace a Chance
25. Power to the People
26. Isolation --> Maybe I’m Amazed
27. Cold Turkey
28. Many Rivers to Cross
29. I’ll Cry Instead
30. I’m a Loser
31. You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away
32. It’s Only Love
33. Ticket to Ride
34. Help!
35. Nowhere Man
36. Rain
37. All My Life
38. Hard Day’s Night
39. No Reply
40. I’ll Be Back
41. Anytime at All
42. You Can’t Do That
43. Tell Me Why
44. It Won’t Be Long
45. All I’ve Got to Do
46. This Boy
47. I Want to Hold Your Hand
48. She Loves You
49. From Me to You
50. Please Please Me
51. You Really Got a Hold on Me
52. Please Mr. Postman
53. Money (That’s What I Want)
54. Twist And Shout

55. Imagine
56. Ain’t She Sweet
57. I Saw Her Standing There
58. Slow Down
59. Bad Boy
60. Rock ‘n’ Roll Music
61. My Bonnie

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Thursday, December 07, 2006

mayor coleman bans the box in st. paul

the pioneer press reports today that the city of st. paul will no longer require jobseekers to state on their applications whether they have ever been convicted of a crime. cities such as boston have already implemented this sort of pro-reintegration policy, but it remains a gutsy move by mayor chris coleman. background checks will continue to be conducted for positions involving direct contact with children, law enforcement, and positions of financial trust.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

world wealth distribution

you might have heard about the new report on world distribution of household wealth by the world institute for development economics research.

i haven't scrutinized the study's design, methodology, or scope of coverage -- and i know far too little about global stratification research to offer a decent evaluation anyway -- but i'm intrigued by the data.

for purposes of this report, wealth is defined in terms of net worth or the ownership of capital: the value of physical and financial assets less debts. i cannot believe that such quantities are easily or consistently measured across nations. nevertheless, according to the report, average wealth amounted to about ...

• $181,000 per person in japan,
• $171,000 in switzerland,
• $144,000 in the u.s.,
• $131,000 in kuwait,
• $127,000 in the u.k.,
• $81,000 in norway,
• $10,000 in turkey,
• $5,000 in cuba,
• $3,500 in iraq,
• $1,400 in indonesia,
• $1,100 in north korea,
• $1,100 in india,
• $400 in nigeria.

i just picked a few countries, but you get the idea. most u.s. households are quite rich by world standards. aggregating across nations, there are some intriguing summary statistics ...

• assets of $2,200 per adult placed a household in the top half of the world wealth ranking; this group owns about 99 percent of global assets.
• $61,000 in assets is needed to reach the richest 10 percent; this group owns 85 percent of the world's wealth.
• it takes more than $500,000 in assets to reach the richest 1 percent; this group owns 40 percent of global assets.

how is the report being received by the sociologists and economists that we know and trust? if the findings can be considered reliable and valid by social scientific standards, you might be interested in using some of these handy powerpoint slides and other figures in teaching.

i hope i never read about embattled chris uggen

the times and post reported today on the allegations against embattled minneapolis fire chief bonnie bleskachek. mayor r.t. rybak has asked the city council to fire chief bleskachek after four lawsuits were filed against the city, accusing the chief of "playing sexual politics, retaliating against a former partner, acting as a lustful predator and showing bias against at least one heterosexual male firefighter."

yeesh. as in many sexual harassment cases, the allegations are pretty bad. it looked as though the city would settle up and cut a deal with the chief, but the taxpayers protested with a collective "oh, come on!" when ms. bleskachek was offered a severance package of about $41,000 and another job in the department.

i can't determine whether this is a case of a serial harasser and authority-abuser, or a case of homophobic piling-on against the nation's first openly lesbian urban fire chief, or, i suppose, some combination of the two. having spent a little time studying sexual harassment, i can say that the allegations made in this case are not atypical. as a department chair in an authority position, however, i'm sympathetic to ms. bleskachek's position: “I wanted to have my day in court, to be deposed, to force these people to produce some proof,” she said. “It’s a devastating blow to my career, my reputation, my everything.”

Monday, December 04, 2006


my nyc punishment conference ended strangely friday night. after the final session, i joined a couple friends at a nearby hotel bar. i felt pretty intoxicated after a drink and a half and went back to my room. i attributed my wooziness to a long day of sessions and an empty stomach, but the next day one of my companions emailed to suggest that something may have been slipped into her drink:

I actually ended up going to the police and reporting this incident. I am now about 100% sure that roofies were slipped into that second drink. My reaction was very unusual. I usually have quite high tolerance to alcohol, yet after a few sips of the 2nd drink, I almost instantly felt out of it. I passed out as soon as I got home and was out cold for about 7 hours. Yet, I woke up around 5AM perfectly fine and not feeling hungover at all.

i won't name the people or places, at least until i learn more about what happened. but i've got more questions than google can answer.

* why would someone target a woman sitting with two other men? rohypnol-like substances can be used for drug-facilitated robbery as well as for drug-facilitated sexual assault. the three of us were well-dressed for the conference (by academic standards, that is), but weren't flashing cash around.

* who could have done it? the other male in our party is an old friend and above suspicion (i hope that i am as well!). i don't think the drinks ever left our sight, but i wouldn't blame the bartenders without much more evidence. do bartenders often feel they've been falsely accused in such situations?

* my friend woke up with two black eyes. are any of the roofie-like drugs linked to this sort of discoloration?

* how common are such experiences? i couldn't find any good stats beyond monitoring the future high school students, which suggest a low rate ( < 2%) of self-reported use.