Chris Uggen's Blog: February 2007

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

positive coaching

jim thompson of the positive coaching alliance got some press for his bottom 10 list of the worst behavior in sports in 2006. the incidents, some with cringe-inducing video, are presented as talkable moments to share with one's kids. yeesh. to their credit, the coaching site also lists the top 10 moments in sports, including this charmer.

a good coach somehow reaches kids -- my kids, at least -- in ways that their parents and teachers cannot. my family has benefited enormously from amateur coaches this year, so i could easily fill a local top-10 (or top-100) list with positive examples drawn from esperanza's and tor's activities. these coaches work for nothing or next to nothing, putting in insane hours for my kids. think about it: if you were coach, how many 6 a.m. practices and two-day tournaments would you wedge into your schedule?

that's why i'm heartened whenever coaches get a little well-deserved recognition. tor's wrestling coach danny, shown above with his own lad, was just honored as the section's coach of the year. there's a nice story in the strib's north section this morning, and a fine photo of the large lad and his mates enjoying practice. the article highlights danny's two-a-days, 6 am practices, and "get tough" workouts. as the photo reflects, however, it isn't too difficult to find big laughs and smiles in the wrestling room.

knowing the team and its heavyweight, i can assure you that danny has definitely earned the accolades. with the 'stangs hitting the state tourney today, the really big task remains in front of him. no, i don't mean picking up something nice for the trophy case. the big task is to keep an amped-up crew of rather, shall we say, spirited lads in line for four days at a st. paul hotel.* the courage to face such daunting challenges probably explains why he's a coach and i'm not (and, parenthetically, why i won't be staying at said hotel).

i've witnessed stunning acts of generosity from coach dan and all his assistants this year, but my personal favorite involves the distinctive tie-dyed shirt tor wears before and after each match. this grateful dead tee was a gift from big chad, you see, an assistant coach who was himself a heavyweight wrestler like tor. big chad warmed up in that shirt throughout his own outstanding run as a high school and college wrestler, so the gesture means a lot to tor. plus, unlike dad's hand-me-downs -- such as my old baseball glove -- the shirt actually fits the enormous nonconformist.

good coaches, and good leaders more generally, seem to take their work a little more personally than others. my favorite coaches are those who care enough about their kids to get a little teary-eyed when things go very well or very badly for them. now that i think about it, i still keep a gracious letter from my old wrestling coach, craig skalicky, in a box with treasured family photos. i'm not sure how long we'll be able to keep the tie-dye shirt together, but the gift will never be forgotten. if you've benefitted from your coaches, or your kids have learned something important from their coaches, you might want to express your gratitude. send 'em a letter or buy 'em a beer. they deserve more than a plaque for their efforts.

*i was surprised to learn (a) that tor would be staying in a hotel, since the tournament is less than 10 miles from our house; and, (b) that i'm not picking up the tab. i wholeheartedly approve, of course, since (one way or another) rooming with his buds will make this experience much more memorable. i'm just praying that he doesn't return sunday with a full-back mustang tattoo or a keith moon-like bill for damages.

Monday, February 26, 2007

middle school musical and anticipatory socialization

i enjoyed esperanza's middle school performance of high school musical this weekend, a one-act version of the insanely popular disney production. the show drew hordes of students to auditions and record audiences to the auditorium. why was this production so popular?

first, i suppose, it is a good yarn. as importantly, however, the story touches on big themes that any teenager can feel --especially the whole falling-in-love-and-breaking-away-from-oppressive-peers-and-parents-to-discover-your-true-self angle. moreover, the show's popularity might have something to do with anticipatory socialization -- you know, rehearsing the role behaviors tied to statuses that we someday expect to occupy. while i'd guess that few seventh graders have actually fallen in love and broken away from their parents, many of them certainly expect to do so in the near future.

hmmm. extending this logic to senior high school, i suppose that a stage adaptation of animal house would be wildly popular among sixteen year olds. at the very least, i'd expect it to draw far more dudes out for auditions than, say, annie.

esperanza has performed in several fine plays over the years, but this season's high school musical now ranks among my favorite productions. i'm really hoping she gets a crack at guys and dolls or west side story next year, though anything but annie is cool with me.

Friday, February 23, 2007


if you like some blank on your canvas and spaces between your notes, you might connect with low, the minimalist slowcore trio from duluth.

i can't help but see the terrible beauty of lake superior in winter when i hear low. and, truth be told, i can't help but envision alan and mimi, a loving mormon couple carving their initials deeper into the indie music tree with each successive album.

by all reports, their forthcoming drums and guns will rank among low's best. if you hurry, you can be among the first 60 people to catch a raw video or studio audio of the band's breaker. if you give the video a minute and 39 seconds, perhaps you'll feel it too.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

'maid in mounds view

She is so impressive of stature, so noticeable, so literally statuesque and, frankly, topless, that she is certainly deserving to be listed on the Minnesota Historical Society's webpage of classic roadside advertising giants, along with the ear of corn that towers above Rochester and the big polar bear outside its car dealership in White Bear Lake. -eric hanson

i have a weakness for enormous sculptures, especially the less pretentious enormous sculptures used to sell cars or vegetables. that polar bear mentioned above? i've heard that kids have been shooting arrows into it since i was a lad. you just can't do that with modern signage.

for the past 12 years or so, i've passed this striking mermaid along highway 10 in mounds view. she towers over a restaurant/bowling alley/banquet hall/hotel complex known, appropriately enough, as the mermaid. she was always a mystery to me, but eric hanson's fine piece in the strib taught me a bit more about her. the mermaid has apparently gazed down benevolently from atop the restaurant since 1972, weathering fashion trends and frequent remodeling projects, and rising above the tumultuous waters of good taste and evolving gender role attitudes. though the facility does a fine job with high school banquets, i'm guessing that i'd have a tough time convincing my colleagues to attend a faculty retreat or happy hour at the 'maid.

many unanswered questions remain, of course, including why she adopts the same pose as ed hochuli signaling touchdown. also, why would someone place a topless mermaid on the roof of their restaurant in the first place? did she simply emerge one day from the nearby mississippi river?

the article sez the owners rescued her from advertising statue purgatory when the bar needed a bit of adornment: she was originally "meant to beckon visitors to a trout pond business that never materialized" down the road. that's perfect. long may she reign.

symbolic interactionism and britney spears

i'm sometimes caught off-guard by the ferocious intensity of celebrity news and the savagery with which it is reported. i learned this week, for example, that ms. britney spears shaved her head. she took so many hits for this act that it actually made news when a talk show host refrained from trashing her.

i have no idea why she did it or what else is going on in ms. spears' life, but shaving one's head is a fairly common practice among those making life transitions. for example, some friends have been encouraged to shave their heads and toss their makeup upon entering a rehab facility. other friends have shaved their heads upon reaching milestone birthdays or when the last kid leaves the house, just to symbolize their fresh start. still others regularly shave their heads for religious reasons, for athletic performance, or simply to get the best bang for the buck at great clips (you know who you are, dude).

hair has long been associated with youth and sexuality, i suppose, and it can sometimes be healthy to just take a little break from thinking about one's outward appearance or sexuality. more basically, however, hair is superficial. it isn't necessarily an unhealthy development for a pop star to start afresh and change the way that people look at her. were i to shave my head tonight, others would perceive me differently tomorrow, opening up new reflected appraisals of self, new identities, and new behavior. so, maybe britney spears is just a thoughtful symbolic interactionist -- changing herself from the outside-in.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

nice trophy, dudes

emotions ran high yesterday, as the lad's wrestling team advanced to the state tournament. the enormous noncomformist closed out three tight matches with authority, before a foot-stompin' crowd in roseville.

the boys here employ their index fingers to signal that they would each like one (1) large post-match kiwi-strawberry slurpee (the big guy in back apparently desires at least two of same). the individual qualifiers are next weekend, but this day was all about team. they'll meet the seven other survivors -- albert lea, wayzata, hastings, osseo, anoka, apple valley, and grand rapids -- in st. paul's excel center on the 28th, where the crowds can reach five figures. yeesh.

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

intriguing work by jack chin

jack chin, handcuffed at left, just sent a 70-page monster that makes an intriguing argument about law and politics in the civil war and reconstruction eras. in The Tyranny of the Minority: Jim Crow and the Counter-Majoritarian Difficulty, professor chin argues that it is kind of silly to think of african americans as a minority group when the 14th and 15th amendments were passed.

angie, jeff, and i stumbled much less expertly around this terrain in applying group threat theory to voting and politics -- when african american males gained the vote, whites suddenly found themselves a statistical minority in many elections. i haven't worked through all of jack's arguments, but here's the ssrn link and the 'stract:

When analyzing the consequences of and remedies for discrimination against African Americans, courts and scholars characterize African Americans as a minority. This Article shows that the traditional approach is wrong: When it mattered, when the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments were enacted and for decades after, African Americans were a majority or controlling plurality in the states where most lived. African American-backed majoritarian governments controlled the South after the Civil War; while in power, they enacted strong civil rights laws and created a public education system. These policies were reversed, and segregation imposed, not because African Americans were a minority, destined to lose in the majoritarian political process, but rather through elimination of democratic politics and imposition of minority rule. African Americans and their white allies were stripped of their electoral majority through fraud, violence and illegal disenfranchisement. This Article argues that the most important harm African Americans suffered was something that the law has until now overlooked: Loss of the right to control the governments of several Southern states. This injury means that current African Americans disadvantage likely rests on a constitutional violation; Jim Crow could not have happened had democracy functioned as provided in the Constitution. Consideration of African American majority status also sheds new light on the counter-majoritarian difficulty. In reviewing measures oppressing African Americans, the Court did not have to balance majority rule against minority rights; instead, majority rule and constitutional rights both militated toward invalidation of laws passed by a minority to oppress the majority.

Friday, February 16, 2007

celebrate now, work later...

ahh, the first of many contexts parties. it was beautiful to raise a glass (of cider) with friends before any actual work needed to be done.

the photo was ripped from the pages of the department website. l-to-r, that's kathy, me, jeff, evan, doug, erin, and the hand of woz. many thanks to mary, carol, and all the friends and colleagues who took time to email or stop by to share the moment.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

minnesota boys

al franken wants to be my next senator, so i watched his announcement video with some interest. some of the cliches were groaners (is there anything more "politics as usual" than to say that voters are sick of politics as usual?), but mr. franken's message about representing middle-class and working-poor families seemed heartfelt and real.

as i wrote after my air america moment last year, "al franken is a look-you-in-the-eye real handshake kind of guy. off-air, he's disarming and open. if he runs for office, he'll win the crucial "which of these jokers would i rather have a beer with?" competition that has bedeviled the Dems in recent national elections." still true. if he works half as hard as professor wellstone did, i'm predicting that mr. franken has the stuff to mobilize the late senator's devout and devoted constituency.

in another big announcement for minnesotans, joe mauer of the twins signed a long-term contract (or inked a four-year pact, in sportspeak). if you'd like to locate his position in minnesota popular culture, you might check out evan's birthday party. cutest ever. given mr. mauer's popularity, mr. franken might well consider sideburn extensions before hitting the campaign trail.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

not that i want to hear strangers in the night for three months around the holiday ...

... but i truly prefer valentine's day music* to christmas music. here's our favorite station's playlist on this day -- simply lovely, if you ask me.

as this is pledge time, locals who share the sensibility might even be moved to make a contribution. a bit of sarah vaughan, big star, and that DeVotchKa song in february sure beat the silver bells i've heard for the preceding for months.

11:32Johnny Cash - I Walk The Line
11:28Wilco - Jesus, Etc.
11:23Neil Young - Harvest Moon

11:15Paul Westerberg - First Glimmer
11:10The Wedding Present - Perfect Blue
11:07The Shins - Kissing The Lipless
11:01Feist - Secret Heart
10:55Sarah Vaughan - The Nearness of You
10:47DeVotchKa - Queen of the Surface Streets
10:43John Lennon - Woman
10:40Nick Cave - Into My Arms
10:31Percy Sledge - When A Man Loves A Woman
10:27Spoon - I Summon You
10:24Big Star - Thirteen
10:21Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
10:15Pixies - La La Love You
10:10Prince - Nothing Compares 2 U
10:05The Pogues w/ Kirsty MacColl - Fairytale Of New York
10:00Guillemots - Made Up Lovesong #43
9:56The Flaming Lips - Do You Realize
9:49Al Green - Let's Stay Together
9:46Billie Holiday - How Deep Is The Ocean
9:39Leonard Cohen - Dance Me To The End Of Love
9:33Death Cab For Cutie - I Will Follow You into the Dark
9:28Talking Heads - This Must Be The Place Naive Melody
9:22Beach Boys - God Only Knows
9:20The White Stripes - We're Going to Be Friends
9:13Semisonic - Secret Smile
9:09Otis Redding - Try a Little Tenderness
9:01Bob Dylan - Shelter From The Storm
8:56Ray LaMontagne - Shelter
8:51Horace Faith - Black Pearl
8:48Elvis Presley - Can't Help Falling In Love
8:43Iron & Wine - Such Great Heights
8:34Unrest - Make Out Club
8:30Mason Jennings - Ballad for my One True Love
8:24Nina Simone - I Want a Little Sugar in my Bowl
8:21Magnetic Fields - The Book of Love
8:13Roberta Flack - The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
8:08Ben Folds - The Luckiest
7:58Van Morrison - Tupelo Honey
7:53M. Ward - Let My Love Open The Door
7:50Mario Lanza - If I loved you
7:41Israel Kamakawiwo'ole - Somewhere Over The Rainbow / What A Wonderful World
7:38Cat Power - Where Is My Love
7:34Bright Eyes - First Day Of My Life
7:27The Jayhawks - All The Right Reasons
7:24The Righteous Brothers - Unchained Melody
7:21Etta James - At Last
7:16Sam Cooke - Cupid
7:12Billy Bragg - The Fourteenth Of Feburary
7:06The Ashtray Hearts - Valentine
7:03Rufus Wainwright - My Funny Valentine
6:57R.E.M. - The One I Love
6:54Sloan - Right Or Wrong
6:46All The Pretty Horses - Falling In Love Again
6:43Teenage Fanclub - What You Do to Me
6:38The Frames - Falling Slowly
6:31Wolfmother - Dimension
6:29Buzzcocks - I Don't Mind
6:26Visqueen - Crush On Radio
6:20Muse - Supermassive Black Hole
6:16The Dears - Ticket to Immortality
6:13Youth Group - Catching & Killing
6:07Aqualung - Strange & Beautiful (I'll Put A Spell On You)
6:03Small Sins - All Will Be Fine
6:00The Apples in Stereo - Sunday Sounds
5:57Joseph Scrimshaw - LIVE IN STUDIO
5:51Robotboy - Didn't Want It Anyway
5:46Graham Coxon - See A Better Day
5:38Keane - A Bad Dream
5:35The Replacements - Can't Hardly Wait
5:31Figurines - The Wonder
5:27Sondre Lerche and The Faces Down - Say It All
5:16Queen - Crazy Little Thing Called Love
5:13The Good, The Bad, & The Queen - 80's Life
5:05Regina Spektor - Hotel Song
5:02fIREHOSE - Honey, Please
4:57Dean & Britta - White Horses
4:51Franz Ferdinand - Take Me Out
4:48Ugly Duckling - Slow The Flow
4:36Oasis - Supersonic
4:30The Knife - Silent Shout
4:27Bloc Party - The Prayer
4:16David Bowie - Fame
4:11Mates of State - Goods (All In Your Head)
4:05Ben Harper - Both Sides Of The Gun
4:01The View - Don't Tell Me
3:55Joseph Arthur - Can't Exist
3:50Dance Band - Pedal Power
3:44Primal Scream - Nitty Gritty
3:39Joss Stone - Super Duper Love
3:34Eagles of Death Metal - I Want You So Hard (Boy's Bad News)
3:31Robbers on High Street - Married Young
3:23Secret Machines - All At Once (It's Not Important)
3:20Maximo Park - Apply Some Pressure
3:16The Earlies - Enemy Chorus
3:06Sonic Youth - Pink Steam
3:00Pere Ubu - Texas Overture
2:54Jolie Holland - Springtime Can Kill You
2:51The Three Degrees - When Will I See You Again
2:46Nas - Can't Forget About You (Feat. Chrisette Michele)
2:38The Hold Steady - Southtown Girls
2:32DeVotchKa - Queen of the Surface Streets
2:25The Foreign Exchange - All That You Are
2:21Bonobo - Days To Come
2:15Monsieur Gainsbourg - Boomerang 2005 (Remixed by Jose Gonzalez, Feist, and Dani)
2:11Marah - Poor People
2:07Barry White - Playing Your Game, Baby
2:01Asobi Seksu - Goodbye
1:57Viva Voce - Believer
1:52The Cops - Rising Sons
1:43Jesse Sykes & The Sweet Hereafter - LLL
1:35Michael Franti and Spearhead - Yell Fire
1:32The BellRays - Tell The Lie
1:27Jeremy Enigk - River To Sea
1:23Damien Rice - 9 Crimes
1:16Sergio Mendes - Mas Que Nada feat. The Black Eyed Peas
1:12The Heavenly States - Pretty Life
1:09Babyshambles - The Blinding
12:59The Rapture - Pieces Of The People We Love
12:51Thom Yorke - Black Swan
12:46Lupe Fiasco - Real (feat. Sarah Green)
12:39Ane Brun - Song No. 6
12:35Magnetic Fields - The Luckiest Guy on the Lower East Side
12:31The Decemberists - The Crane Wife 3
12:25The Melismatics - You're My Habit
12:21Eleni Mandell - My Twin
12:16Nellie McKay - Tipperary
12:12Nina Simone - Sinnerman
12:07Emily Haines & the Soft Skeleton - Our Hell
12:02Field Music - Got to Write a Letter
11:59New Order - Fine Time
11:58New Order - Fine Time
11:55Brother Ali - Truth Is
11:48The Cardigans - Iron Man
11:43Norah Jones - Wish I Could
11:37The Mountain Goats - Song for Lonely Giants
11:33Mazzy Star - Fade Into You
11:24The Twilight Singers - Powder Burns
11:21Cat Power - Where Is My Love
11:17Mason Jennings - Be Here Now
11:11South - A Place in Displacement
11:08Clinic - Walking With Thee
10:59Lily Allen - Smile
10:54King Britt featuring Sister Gertrude Morgan - Living Bread
10:51Klaxons - Atlantis To Interzone
10:44Lali Puna - Micronomix -Boom Bip Remix
10:39Menomena - Wet and Rusting
10:33Slow Runner - Break Your Mama's Back
10:29Broken Social Scene - 7/4 (Shoreline)
10:22Astronaut Wife - Cape Canaveral
10:19The Kooks - You Don't Love Me
10:12The Roots - Don't Feel Right feat. Maimouna Youssef
10:09Nickodemus - Endangered Species
9:59Yo La Tengo - Beanbag Chair
9:53DeVotchKa - Queen of the Surface Streets
9:51Belle and Sebastian - Dear Catastrophe Waitress
9:47Benjy Ferree - Hollywood Sign
9:43Eno - Over Fire Island
9:39Of Montreal - Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse
9:33Destroyer - Your Blood
9:28Billy Bragg - Waiting For The Great Leap Forward
9:23Trampled by Turtles - I'm a Target Too
9:19Ron Sexsmith - All In Good Time
9:14Annie Stela - Fool
9:10Beck - Missing
9:07Pixies - La La Love You
9:00Neko Case - Star Witness
8:54Swåp - Man With Bell on Head
8:52Chris Koza - South South Dakota
8:52The Raveonettes - Railroad Tracks
8:44Prudence Johnson and Gary Rue - I Wanna Be a Train
8:33Mighty Sparrow - No More Rocking
8:33Mighty Sparrow - No More Rocking
8:27Otis Redding - Try a Little Tenderness
8:10Easter Parade at Chanhassen Dinner Theaters - The Song is Ended & Just an Old Fashioned Walk
8:04Patty Griffin - You’ll Remember
8:03They Might Be Giants - Particle Man
7:55Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters - Indigo Burrell
7:55Colin Hay - My Brilliant Feat
7:48Kris Delmhorst - Wasted Word
7:44Ann Mayo Muir, Gordon Bok and Ed Trickett - Julian of Norwich
7:36The Kinks - All Of My Friends Were There
7:36Steve Earle - Valentine's Day
7:27Rachel Reis - Valentine, NE
7:11Easter Parade at Chanhassen Dinner Theaters - Steppin' Out With My Baby & A Couple of Swells
7:05Chris Smither - Open Up
7:01Amos Lee - Skipping Stone
6:56Leo Kottke with Chet Atkins - Twice
6:55Sun Kil Moon - Pancho Villa
6:47Geoff Bartley - If I Had Possession Over Judgment Day
6:44Judd and Maggie - Sleep Interrupted (Because of You)
6:36Ella Fitzgerald - Thou Swell
6:31Neil Diamond & Brian Wilson - Delirious Love
6:27Norah Jones - Be My Somebody
6:18Frank Sinatra - Strangers In the Night
6:18Stacey Earle - Must Be Love
6:01Susie Arioli Swing Band - Jordan’s Boogie

*sorry shadd, i just couldn't resist.

Monday, February 12, 2007

contexts is comin'

yeah, you heard right: the american sociological association's contexts magazine is coming to minnesota!

i'm always jazzed to bring new journals to the minnversity, but especially thrilled about contexts -- its mission maps beautifully onto our department's mission as the engaged department.

i'll be co-editor with doug e. fresh, but many great friends and colleagues are already helping to shape our vision for contexts. we're fortunate to have terrific support from our department, college, and university, so we're planning some cool stuff on the print and online side, as well as some big events and outreach.

this is gonna be real fun...


Sunday, February 11, 2007

too thin

reuters reports that five of sixty-nine runway models are being kept off the catwalk at this week's international designer show in madrid. evidently, their "ratio of body weight to height was so low it was deemed an unhealthy example to the public."

i'm no expert in the sociology of bodies, but i'm sure that patriarchy and control are part of the story. nevertheless, even male models are today pressured to drop to size zero. in recent years, the boy-waif look has apparently overtaken the buffed and angular male ideal.

i've written before about the body mass index and its flaws. this is partly personal (yes, at my current weight and height, i'm officially overweight) and partly scientific. there are far better ways to identify a healthy body weight than the b.m.i. for example, wrestlers have strong incentives to cut weight, so every minnesota grappler now sees a "certified skinfold technician" or undergoes a water displacement test to establish a minimum wrestling weight of at least seven percent body fat.

should the state or particular industries regulate the weight of a class of workers? i'm personally torn on this issue between libertarian (ain't nobody's business what i weigh) and communitarian (bad for society as well as bad for the models) impulses. that said, i'm all for placing sensible weight restrictions on children. the state and schools have an expansive license to intervene in the lives of juvenile models and wrestlers who have yet to reach the age of majority. and parental consent is no solution -- many parents would sign anything if they thought it gave their kids an edge or a better shot at glory.

but this raises a bigger question, about which much has been written: why aren't we associating physical beauty with adult bodies? super-skinny models lack the breasts, muscles, and curves associated with adulthood, so i can't help but see the fashion industry as complicit in sexualizing kids and adolescents. or maybe it is just too darn difficult for high-end designers to deal with the curves and lumps of adult bodies. like placing a coat over the back of a chair, i suppose they can easily drape anything over a stick-like 5'11" 90-pounder.

as a runner and parent, i tend to emphasize exercise more than diet in discussions with my kids. one sees a marvelous diversity of body types at the average marathon, for example, but every finisher is defensibly "in shape." i'm still trying to exercise my way out of the post-holiday interim pants, but i doubt that i'm in any immediate danger of hitting size zero.

large black suit and small white corsage

my lad left the house tonight with a large black suit and a small white corsage. now it is 1:38 a.m. and i'm semi-anxiously awaiting his return from the formal's informal afterparty.

i told him to just relax and have fun. as both delinquency teacher and parent, however, i felt obliged to add, "so long as it isn't the sort of fun that gets you suspended from school, kicked off the wrestling team, and tossed into juvenile detention." i wanted to say or breaks your heart in a million pieces, but that would have been too much for one night.

i like to be around my kids for such moments, though the photographic record reveals that i'm mostly just hanging in the background. ever since they were little,* i guess that i've tried to stay out of the way and let them have their moments. when i saw this picture tonight, i recalled that just a few years ago tor was barely bigger than me. this photo dates from 12-year-old little league. immediately after being mobbed by teammates and getting his trophy, he raced across the field to tackle ol' dad. the fact that he wanted me to share his big moment (and, no doubt, to lay me out on the diamond) made it all the sweeter.

after reading a few of my posts, my friend akiva asked, "don't your kids ever get embarrassed that you write about them? don't they just want to kill you?" sometimes, i guess, but not because of the blog. i suppose this post would be the kind of thing that could embarrass or anger tor. on the other hand, he tries to remain oblivious to everything i do -- particularly lame things such as blogs -- so he's unlikely to take offense. and if he does take offense, i'll just ask him what the heck i'm supposed to do with my time while waiting up for him at 1:38 am.

* i use the term figuratively, recognizing that one of my kids was never actually little.

Friday, February 09, 2007

from pampered to plucky: undergraduate sociology majors

when you think of your students, who are the ideal-typical undergrads that you call to mind? while all instructors should probably check their preconceptions, administrators responsible for curricular and staffing decisions should make special efforts to keep tabs on the customers. do you think of your students as first-generation overachievers, pampered white boys from the suburbs, diverse urban hipsters, or lovable blutarskys?

good ol' descriptive statistics can be of some use for such questions. while preparing my department's budget proposal, i learned that 26 percent of our sociology undergraduates are students of color this year, 25 percent are pell-eligible, and 39 percent are first-generation college students. the latter number surprised me the most -- i had assumed that far more of my students had college-educated parents. i know that many work absurd hours outside of class and they're piling up mortgage-sized debt just to make tuition and rent. then it hit me: my students aren't pampered, they're plucky -- spirited and brave in the face of trying circumstances.

my department's gender ratio (60 percent female) is about average for the minnversity's college of liberal arts, but we currently rank fifth among the college's 30 departments in students of color, fourth in pell-eligibility, and third in first-generation college students. so, sociology students tend to enter the minnversity with less financial and cultural capital than students in other disciplines. relative to the nation, however, we have fewer students of color than the average sociology department, likely reflecting minnesota's current population.

a good administrator attends to trends as well as levels, of course, and trends in public school enrollments suggest that we'll be serving an increasingly diverse student body in the future. i cannot vouch for their pluckiness, but i'm looking forward to meeting them in my classes.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

hey, wrestling's back!

the quarantine is lifted and the lads are strapping on their headgear once again. according to dr. bj anderson in today's strib, "The eight days was not meant for kids to heal up... it allows the infection to declare itself and avoid further spread...The vast majority of the state hasn't had a problem and they've been patient in waiting."

the lad's mounds view team (he's not hard to spot in the picture) rescheduled senior night for this evening, which will also serve as little grapplers night. i'll race to arrive before the 7:30 varsity match, because last year's little grapplers night featured crowd-pleasing sumo-suit matches between some of the assembled dignitaries.

the fans and parents have definitely got wrestling fever. the message boards even featured wrestling poetry (!?) today. talk about doing gender ... here's an author-unkown poem called the champion:

He was a man of flesh and blood. He wasn't made of rock.
Angel, devil, child, - man of ordinary stock.
But somehow he was different - true athletes always are-
For as he cursed, sweated, and bled, he took pride in the scar.

They told him to win like a man, no matter what the cost;
So many times he ventured forth; so many times he lost.
And when they turned around and said, "It's OK son, you tried,"
He clenched his headgear in his fist, and like a man he cried.

But from his tears came anger; then, when it ceased to spin,
He rose again, determined that next time he would win.
His trembling body strengthened; his heart soared in sky.
His darkened soul stood flaming; there was fire in his eye.
He worked and worked relentlessly; he struggled and he strained.
His conscience whipped him mercilessly for every ounce he gained.

He ran on legs like pistons; his muscled arms grew sore;
He'd tell himself, "I have to" then ask himself, "What for?"

And then, at last, the reckoning: the final hour was here,
His stomach tightened dangerously, his muscles tensed with fear.
Weak-kneed, he shook the challenger's hand-
And then, as one possessed,
His instincts gave him power, and his body did the rest.

It suddenly was ended. His body seemed to scatter.
A crowd was cheering somewhere, but to him it did not matter.
One thought was gleaming in his brain, a thought that made him smile.
He's given it all he had, and that's what made it all worthwhile

He stood and faced his teammates, with pride instead of shame.
He knew not that he'd won or lost, but that he'd played the game.

And some call him THE WRESTLER, and some call him A MAN,
But he called himself a WINNER...

And the ref held up his hand.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

looks like i picked the wrong week to quit smoking...

have you followed the recent stories regarding barack obama's li'l habit? when i think smoking presidents, i call to mind images of fdr's jaunty cigarette holder and general eisenhower inhaling four packs a day as he led the allies to victory in wwii.

these days, things are different. why, mr. obama's smoking may cause greater controversy than his teenage cocaine use. as maureen dowd suggests, smoking makes mr. obama "intriguingly imperfect." as a non-smoker, i enjoy the image of the commander-in-chief sneaking out by the loading dock to suck down a heater between meetings.

just as former presidents clinton, ford, and reagan, mr. obama won't be caught smoking around the cameras. joe biden would disapprove, i suppose, but i think most of us like to see a little fallibility in our presidential candidates.

while i would not approve of a glue-sniffing president or a chronic inebriate president, smoking has different connotations. i'd advise mr. obama to avoid the nicotine patches until after the election. a patch-wearing president seems weak and compromised relative to a smoking president. think about it: can you imagine winston churchill chewing nicorette? not during wartime, i'll bet. nah, winnie went so far as to say, "My rule of life prescribed as an absolutely sacred rite smoking cigars and also the drinking of alcohol before, after and if need be during all meals and in the intervals between them." here's hoping our presidential candidates proceed with equal bravado.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

merit review

it is merit review time in the minnversity, where we once again assemble our research, teaching, and service contributions over the past year. in our department, a committee ranks all faculty, awarding 2 points for research, 2 for teaching, and 1 for service. as chair, of course, i'll also be evaluated on my leadership and administration record. and no, i don't get to set my own salary. our promotion and tenure committee will prepare a report and the college dean will dole out the appropriate rewards or punishments.

meeting with other chairs, i learned there is great diversity within and outside the minnversity in departmental merit procedures. i'm not sure whether she was exaggerating, but a friend from a text-based department described their previous system as based quite literally on the number of pages that faculty members wrote in the preceding year. for poets, merit was based on the number of published lines.

dang. based on that system, i suppose walt whitman would've kicked w.c. williams' li'l red wheelbarrow:

so much depends

a red wheel

glazed with rain

beside the white

clever. see how he stretched 16 words to eight lines rather than four? and wasn't he double-dipping by splitting wheelbarrow into two words? i'm glad that quality and "ideas that change the way that people think" are trumping sheer quantity of output in most merit reviews these days. that said, i wouldn't be surprised to find a positive correlation between quality and quantity of writing in the social sciences.

Monday, February 05, 2007

purity pledges at the father-daughter dance

glamour magazine reports this month on something called father-daughter purity balls. as the father of a teenage daughter, i think i speak for both of us when i say, "ewwwwww."

according to jennifer baumgardner's article, the fathers "vow to protect the girls’ chastity until they marry" and the daughters "promise to stay pure," sometimes exchanging rings to seal the deal. sociologist peter bearman of columbia is quoted on the consequences of abstinence pledges, along with some other high-powered social scientists in the 7-page article.

strangely, perhaps, issues of sexual double-standards and treating young women like sexual property were hardly mentioned. kind of hard to imagine this sort of ceremony between mothers and sons though, isn't it? (at least, i suppose, in the post-oedipal phases of the life course). maybe glamour readers aren't so sensitive to such double-standards these days.

there is some precedent for father-daughter dances, of course, but i'd never heard of coupling them with virginity pledges. esperanza and i always entered girl scout father-daughter dances with some trepidation, though we would both have a lovely time once we arrived. it was fun to dress up a bit and hang out together, bringing home a nice polaroid of the two of us in mardi gras beads or straw hats to mark the occasion. the potentially creepy date-like aspects of the dances were easily avoided too. she mostly danced with her buddies and then we'd have dinner somewhere like old country buffet -- hardly the pinnacle of romantic ambience.

girl scout dances were fine, but i can only imagine my daughter's responses to a public virginity pledge dinner with dad:

(a) "ewwwww. shut up!"
(b) "did you ask tor not to have sex until he was married?"
(c) "did you not have sex until you were married?"
(d) "okay, okay, we already had the 'healthy sexual choices' unit last quarter."
(e) "is that ring even gold? it looks kinda cheap."

the father-daughter dances were a good bonding experience, in part, because they did not involve imposing paternal controls or talking about sex. instead, these conversations have taken place in private and do not generally involve rings, tuxedos, and floor-length gowns.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

some sort of football game or something

indianapolis colts coach tony dungy is a much-beloved figure around the minnversity, so folks around here generally favor the colts in today's super bowl. me too. mr. dungy was a fine gopher quarterback in the mid-1970s and has remained one of our true and steadfast friends. the ol' coach who recruited him to the minnversity remains his offensive coordinator to this day and his roster is littered with minnesotans. so, i'll be rooting for the colts today.

that said, i'd be very nervous about wagering on the colts. i won't be betting on the game, since i'm a lousy prognosticator and i just get no kick from gambling. still, the seven point spread seems high to me, given the strength of chicago's defense and indianapolis' problems stopping kick and punt returners such as devin hester. were i to place a bet, i'd ignore the points and the props and just take chicago on the money line. the bears are +210, so a $100 bet on the bears could bring you $210 (the colts are -250, in contrast, so you'd need to wager $250 to get back $100). of course, i'm an unrepentant homer who loves the longshots, so this is a particularly apt setting to remember that not all advice is good advice.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

red wing boots: good clothing trumps bad weather

as norwegians say on days like this, det fins ikke dårlig vær, bare dårlige klær: there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.

i heard these words as the morning's chill sorely tested my old jeep's heater. my feet were slow to warm in footwear better suited for nashville, so i made like a real minnesotan and stopped for some red wing boots on my way to the office.

they've made darn good boots in the pretty river town of red wing, minnesota for over 100 years. of course, a bootmaker's stakes were higher in the winters of a century ago, when there were no car heaters (nor cars) to stave off frostbite. the company still employs a highly-skilled and unionized work force, so red wing boots aren't cheap. they are today marketed as both a high-end work boot and an artisanal product, with sizes ranging from 4B to 18EE and specialized models perfectly suited for wide-ranging occupations and applications.

i didn't see a sociological criminologist boot (lace up, waterproof, BS-resistant?), but they had plenty of other models that suited me just fine. once i laced up a pair, i had zero interest in putting my old boots back on or even carrying them back home with me. and, when i got to the car, the jeep's heater seemed perfectly adequate once again. i'll admit that there might be such a thing as bad weather, but good clothing trumps bad weather every time.