Chris Uggen's Blog: May 2007

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

sort of a big deal for $6.49

well, it's been a quiet week in lakeland, florida. the weekly crime map shows only a handful of robberies, some residential burglaries, a couple of stolen cars, and a graffiti report. even so, i was surpised to learn that shoplifting a $6.49 box of prophylactics from the lakeland sears could still land one's picture on the local crime stoppers leaflet shown above. a few hypotheses:

1. awesome technology. the picture quality was just too good to ignore. check it out: the poor lad is caught red-handed.

2. moral revulsion. some folks are still sickened by the idea of condoms being sold right out there in the open like that. perhaps if the young fellow had grabbed, say, a $6.49 bottle of brut the lakeland police might not have made this case such a priority.*

3. cold cash. maybe somebody is after the reward money: according to the crime stoppers f.a.q., "Tipsters remain anonymous and become eligible for rewards of up to $1,000."

4. crim theory. perhaps lakeland is big on broken-windows law enforcement or shaming sanctions.

5. wistful nostalgia. the mayberry-gone-wild aspects of this story would seem to evoke durkheim's society of saints. wouldn't it be nice if this was the picture of serious crime in america? the young rascal would naturally fess up in such a world, where he'd be given a good talking to by a kindly officer.

*oops, scratch that. only four days later, a crime stoppers alert detailed the theft of "a pack of socks and three bottles of cologne." i bet it wasn't brut, though.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

cool and sunny in madison

memorial day is a somber occasion for reflection, so i felt both priviliged and guilty to be enjoying a happy weekend in madison and the dells with family and friends.

sunday brought perfect marathon weather, so i managed to shave about 32 minutes from last year's molasses-slow time.
a few other weekend observations:

1. my Pre-gone-to-seed race gear was a hit, so i got some inspiring shouts of Pre Lives! and Go Pre! all along the course.

2. this year, the bib numbers also advertised runners' first names. i'd never seen this at other marathons, but it was a nice way to make some connections. plus, it was more fun to hear "go christopher!" along the course than "go 1920!"

3. a woman encouraged us with shouts of "runners are sexy" early in the race, only to change position and alter her shouts to "runners, you just keep getting sexier" after 20 miles or so. nobody is actually sexy after 20 miles, of course, so we all appreciated the gesture.

4. some friendly madisonians were playing love train and serving beer at mile 6. it was approximately 8 am, but the beer was much more refreshing than coffee.

5. the police officers directing traffic had warm smiles for the runners. there wasn't a lot of music on the course, so i especially enjoyed the officer playing otis redding (a singer of particular significance to madisonians) near the arboretum.

6. the race was a family thing. the men's winner ricky reusser (at right in Mike DeVries' photo above) broke 2:30 and the women's winner linsey smith (at left in the photo) broke 3:00. mr. reusser's sister, liz black (at center in the photo), took second among the women. they all look too young to be winning marathons.

7. a perfect post-race quote from young mr. reusser: "I will definitely do this again. It was a great time, and I like brats." nice. the finish line was within shouting distance of the madison brat fest.

8. i woke up this morning, made myself some in-room coffee while the family slept, crept into the bathroom, and promptly passed out. i awakened on the floor, soaked in coffee but otherwise fine. this sort of thing sometimes happens after marathons.

9. after a fine post-race meal at gray and luba's, we departed for mount olympus in the wisconsin dells. i rode all the rollercoasters with esperanza, including a tall, fun, scary one called hades. definitely worth the wait.

10. memorial day traditionally honors those who died in military service, but i rounded out the weekend with a well-told story on a blogging vet from wisconsin named j.r. salzman. while my athletic young son was doing arm curls in the next room, i watched a kmsp news story on someone else's athletic young son (a wisconsin logroller!) who left a right arm in iraq. at 16, tor is moving past the age at which a young man can enjoy the dells with even minimal parental supervision. and he's moving into the age at which one can reasonably begin worrying about him losing limbs, or worse, on a desert battlefield.

memorial day is a somber occasion for reflection, so i've been reflecting on this fact for pretty much the past 3 hours.

Friday, May 25, 2007

writing dissertation acknowledgements

a few of the minnversity's more senior grad students seem to be unclenching a bit these days, finally convincing themselves that, yes, the dissertation will be finished this summer. they've pulled together a solid draft, accommodated their committee members' cruel schedules, and sometimes even secured jobs and housing for fall. now comes the fun part for all 'taters -- writing the acknowledgements.

my dissertation acknowledgements have circulated a bit, such that i occasionally meet folks who say, "oh yeah, uggen -- i liked your acknowledgements" when we're introduced. i didn't write anything terribly interesting or outrageous, but tried to put a little reflection and love into 'em.

a few suggestions:

1. gratitude. you can't thank everyone who helped with your dissertation, your graduate career, and your life, but some folks have gone way out of their way for you. this is a nice opportunity to note their contributions. for me, it was also a nice opening for somewhat cheekily acknowledging the particular debts i owed to those who taught me research skills and values. for example, i mentioned that "To the extent that I've stolen from others, I've probably stolen more ideas from Irv than from anyone else. As I leave Wisconsin, I only wish I had committed more of them to paper."

2. tone. i favor a more conversational tone for acknowledgements than for the balance of the dissertation, but remember that these pages must nevertheless remain part of the dissertation. try to avoid the sort of slang, profanity, or extreme informality that will look silly in a decade or two.

3. don't hate, congratulate. unless you are profoundly insensitive, you are certain to be bitter, peeved, dismayed, or chagrined about something that happened during your graduate career. you might be tempted to express these sentiments in the acknowledgements. nevertheless, i'd advise against a paragraph highlighting, say, your fortitude in forging on "despite Professor Uggleson's consistently wrongheaded advice." this sort of thing generally comes off like a teenager's complaint against a well-meaning parent. similarly, the conspicuous exclusion of advisors and committee chairs is akin to dis-inviting a friend to your birthday party. it isn't really appropriate anymore, is it? instead, just let the healing begin.

4. expand the field. everyone acknowledges their advisors and committee members, as well as their parents and partners. but who else gave real support? when i started thinking big-picture, i knew i couldn't ignore my fine undergrad teachers at the wizversity, great friends from my halcyon days as a social worker, and my beloved softball team. upon deeper reflection, i simply had to acknowledge the influence of paul westerberg, robert merton, bob mould, gore vidal, james coleman, satchel paige, and travis hirschi, as well as "George, Larry, and Flaherty, the police officers who helped me out many years ago, for their judicious and humane discretion." i couldn't have made it without them, that's for sure.

5. specificity counts. rather than simply thanking a list of names or categories of people, show how they helped you along the way. did their wicked sense of humor help you bear the pressure of a tough first semester? did they hook you up with the research assistantship that paid off big-time? did they offer emotional support when you seriously considered leaving the business?

you can draft the acknowledgements early, but i wouldn't circulate them to your committee until after your oral examination. at that point, i'd just run them by your advisor and then insert the pages shortly before you officially file the documents. once you're all approved and filed, you can then deliver a handsomely bound dissertation -- in classic black with gold lettering, of course -- to your committee members and to anyone else who helped out along the way. trust me, they'll appreciate it. and which section do you think they'll read first?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

state spending priorities

the san francisco chronicle offers a well-researched story by james sterngold on spending for prisons relative to higher education, but the figure above pretty much nutshells the story in california:

According to the May revisions of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's budget, the state will spend $10 billion on prisons in fiscal 2007-08, a 9 percent increase from last year. Higher education spending will come to $12 billion, a nearly 6 percent increase. Moving forward, the legislative analyst says, spending on higher education probably will grow around 5 percent a year, while prisons spending will grow by at least 9 percent annually.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

nap along the way, did we?

the madison marathon is sunday, so my running buddies have stepped up the e-taunting. here's one from ol' gray willie:

When I finish the marathon an hour so so ahead of you both, should I head uptown and get the car? or wait around and applaud your finish?

e.g. (with Oxfordian accent) "well done chaps, splendid effort, topping really, nap along the way did we?"

sadly, i'm afraid that he might actually beat me by an hour this year. worklife squashed my running life this year, much as a nike air pegasus squashes a plastic water cup and a spent packet of energy goo. still, i managed to squeeze in a few plodding training runs so i really have no excuses. i'll just be clomping along with my peers in the prestigious master's category of the clydesdale division.

i can always use the psychological dodge that i'm treating this marathon as a training run for the next one in october. i snuck in under the wire, but registration for the most beautiful urban marathon in america has already closed at 10,500. fortunately, the madison race remains open and one can still do a twin cities fundraiser registration for $185, $100 of which goes to a good cause.

last year, madison was scary hot on race day, but that seems unlikely for 2007. i'm looking forward to seeing bloggy friends, volunteers such as esperanza, and other pals along the way. if you happen to be in town, i'll be sporting the "what if Pre had lived and gone completely to seed?" look: a yellow oregon singlet and green interim shorts. i'm thinking about cultivating a bushy Pre-stache for the october races, if chair obligations and hormones permit it.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

almost makes office work look cool

time magazine features this wonderful office photograph by steve pyke in their may 16 issue. the former vice president is the very picture of the well-turned out and hyper-productive scholar in this shot. of course, we'd all look more productive if the tech folks hooked us up with a triptych monitor system, a wall-mounted flatscreen, a flip chart, tall windows for natural light, plenty of flat surfaces to pile up the projects, and a technicolor frog to pull it all together. no wonder he's not running in 2008 -- this man has some serious work on his mind.


as a lousy little-leaguer, i was often encouraged to take one for the team, usually in the manner shown at left. in fact, my boyhood heroes were don baylor and the immortal ron hunt of the mets and expos, who famously declared, "everything worthwhile in life is worth a price. some people give their bodies to science; I give mine to baseball.”

today, i'm a big fan of craig biggio, and his quest to break the all-time major league career record for being hit by pitches. he's currently at 283, but hughie jennings' record of 287 is clearly within reach.

according to, the official home of said quest, here are the innings in which a batter is most likely to be hit by a pitch, as of may 17, 2007. it looks as though one is most likely to be plunked during the first (sending a message), sixth (retaliating for a fallen comrade), and eighth (well, we ain't gonna win this one anyway) innings.

here are the totals, with the four columns representing: (1) inning#; (2) 2007 year-to-date; (3)2006 year-to-date; and, (4) 2006 year-end plunks:

Inning 2007 (thru 5/17) 2006 (thru 5/17) 2006 (year-end)
#1 #2 #3 #4
1 53 62 225
2 47 55 209
3 49 59 211
4 32 44 199
5 47 48 193
6 60 63 195
7 55 59 206
8 49 59 219
9 26 33 127
10 4 0 14
11 3 0 9
12 1 0 6
13 1 0 1
14 1 0 1
15 0 0 0
16 0 0 2

Monday, May 21, 2007

a good summer research job at the council on crime and justice

Research Coordinator
The Council on Crime and Justice is a non-profit agency committed to building community capacity to address the causes and consequences of crime and violence through research, demonstration and advocacy.

Research Project:
As part of our 50th anniversary we are conducting a two-stage research project. First, we are identifying the most important developments in the past 50 years that have affected public safety and the justice system. These developments are being identified with input from elected officials, ex-offenders, victims, direct service providers, and so forth. Once these key developments are identified an in-depth examination of the literature (both locally and nationally) regarding these topics will be conducted. Additional analysis of each key development will also be undertaken (such as examining the effects of demographic changes on the key developments, cost/benefits analyses of the developments, and the impact of the developments on the community).

Second, based on the findings from the retrospective analysis we will examine the future of the justice system. If the criminal justice continues to operate as it is now, what will the prison population look like? How many people will have criminal records? What will the demographics of those involved with the justice system look like? How can projections be mitigated and to what extent? The prospective analysis will be accompanied by demographic predictions provided by Hazel Reinhardt (former state demographer).

Based on these future predictions, key recommendations will be developed in order to enhance public safety while reducing racial disparities. These key recommendations (along with the results of the retrospective and prospective analyses) will be the basis for a community forum in September. Last year the Council’s forum was attended by over 700 lawyers, elected officials, community leaders, direct service providers, representatives from the press, and government organizations.

Position Responsibilities:
The Research Coordinator will have direct responsibility for completion on the following:
1.) A review of all “key developments” as identified by focus groups (including a literature review of local and national research),
2.) A projection of the future of the justice system based on the findings in step one,
3.) Facilitation of focus groups to identify key recommendation based on the research findings, and
4.) A written report for September’s forum.

Graduate studies and relevant experience in the criminal justice or related field, including project management in academic, non-profit or government settings required. Ability to work independently with minimal supervision. Skilled in both qualitative and quantitative methods. Experience in project development and management. Community research or action-oriented research experience is preferred. Has an understanding of racial disparities and institutionalized racism. Strong verbal and written communication skills. Proficient in SPSS, Word and Excel software programs. Ability to work effectively across cultures and demonstrate sensitivity to ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability and faith. EEO/AA

Hours: Full Time, Exempt, Temporary (May – August 2007)
Salary: $640 – 800 per week
Deadline: Open Until Filled

To Apply: Submit resume and cover letter to:
Or Council on Crime and Justice Attn: Human Resources
822 South Third Street, Suite 100 Minneapolis, MN 55415

shape i'm in

i'm just back from sarah's graduation party, featuring the (aforementioned) hookers & blow. h&b has a regular sunday thing going at the cabooze, which i'd recommend if you're ever in minneapolis on the sabbath. they were an 8-piece tonight, complete with a fine horn section. the covers selection was inspired and wide-ranging, with a clever version of lady madonna dedicated to the guest of honor. if you ask me, h&b found a particularly nice groove on the band's "the shape i'm in," so i'm guessin' they've got a killer version of don't do it all set for the encore. thanks for the invite, sarah -- and godspeed toward the next degree.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

galileo and curious george

i'm still revved up from nephew leif's weekend visit and all the fun commotion that a 1.75 year-old person brings to a house. this trip, i was fascinated by the people and things that caught his interest. why does one experience become a new obsession while another experience is completely ignored?

sis says that a pbs curious george clip on balls and ramps ranks among his favorite videos. if i had to guess why, i'd point to a couple key elements:

1. familiarity -- many kids have access to colored balls like those in the video.

2. action -- see how they grab the balls and run up the ramp? lots of motion and excitement.

3. pals -- no visible adult supervision and the kids are friendly and welcoming.

4. friendly competition -- whose ball will roll farthest?

5. great soundtrack -- leif digs guitars, but that brian auger organ thing is way cool.

6. emotion -- the big eyes and audible "Ohhhh!" "Noooo!" and "Whoaaaa!" whenever a ball stops rolling pulled me into the video.

7. the natural world -- we're playing outside, never mind the rain.

8. the wonders of science -- the kids try to abstract general principles from the experiment, mostly about how the size and weight of the balls affects the distance they roll. i didn't say anything to sis, who knows my tendency to geek out over such stuff, but there's something that bugged me about the scientific lesson.

curiously, the curious george show seems to operate in an aristotelian universe. about 400 years ago, galileo challenged aristotle's idea that heavier bodies would fall faster than lighter ones. as this giuseppe bezzuoli painting suggests, galileo even rolled a few balls his own self to establish that falling or rolling bodies are accelerated independently of their mass.

so now i'm nervous that repeated exposure to curious george will cost leif major points on a high-school physics test in 2018. oh well, perhaps they'll get to galileo's experiments and einstein's trains in subsequent episodes.

Friday, May 18, 2007

berkeley's changed, dude

a former minneapolis police chief once tried to criminalize homelessness via panhandling licenses. the proposal couldn't get much traction in my fair city, and the chief was quickly dispatched to texas. today, such efforts continue in every city. the san francisco chronicle reports on berkeley mayor tom bates' more clever method to sweep the streets of the indigent:

As Mayor Tom Bates sees it, the alcoholics, meth addicts and the like who make up a good portion of the homeless population on Shattuck Avenue downtown and Telegraph Avenue on the south side of the UC Berkeley campus "almost always smoke." And because smoking bans are the hot ticket these days for California cities, why not meld the two as part of a "comprehensive package" for dealing with the street problem that Bates says "has gone over the top"?

ah, the comprehensive package! by tapping into the status politics of the anti-smoking crusade, the mayor will gain bipartisan support for measures that are punitive and restrictive, if not outright repressive. think about it -- what self-respecting left-coast liberal wouldn't support a smoking ban?

So far, Bates' ideas seem to be fitting fine with the Berkeley mind-set. When the smoking ban came up for discussion before the City Council last week, it was smooth sailing.
"I don't see anyone on the council voting against it,'' said Councilman Kriss Worthington. "In fact, it's possible that some council members would ban smoking throughout the entire city."

i can see one political barrier to mayor bates' plan, though it comes from the right rather than the left: he'd pay for the homeless smoking crackdown by raising city parking rates fifty cents per hour. while consistent with the "berkeley mind-set," such a move could cost him the support of the city's compassionate conservatives. repression is one thing, but repression with a tax hike quite another.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

human heavy bag

i've been following local boxing these days, now that minnversity sociology alum caleb "golden" truax has launched a pro career. i'm a big fan of theatrical pre-fight hype, in which boxers somehow invent new ways to say terrible things about their opponents. today i read some fine boxing trash-talking from matt "the predator" vanda (shown at left), in reference to his upcoming match with kenny kost:

Kenny Kost, he's basic. He's nothing special. I don't see him winning the fight, that's for damn sure. My outlook on him is that he's a human heavy bag with a speed bag for a head.

the snide and catty comments that pass for academic trash-talking simply pale in comparison.

not too hard, not too soft

criminologists are often baffled by the sentences doled out to rich and famous defendants such as martha stewart. sometimes such folks are hammered for their celebrity, other times they get absurdly accommodating treatment.

now paris hilton is going to jail, which seems like the premise of a really bad summer movie. as punishment for violating the terms of her probation on a drunk-driving related offense, ms. hilton will serve about 23 days in a segregated jail unit. as anyone who has attempted to sleep in a jail can attest, the term segregated is important here. the scariest thing about jail -- the real deterrent, if you will -- is the prospect of mixing it up with much scarier inmates in a loosely-supervised environment. jails are typically far less orderly than prisons, since people are constantly moving in and out, and counties generally have fewer programming resources than state departments of correction. as a crude indicator of such strain, many first-time jail inmates determine that they really don't need to go to the bathroom for the first 4 or 5 days.

i'd bet that almost any academic could ride out the 23 days of boredom scheduled for ms. hilton, though we'd break down quickly if tossed into the LA county lock-up without any special treatment. as long as she remains in segregation, my guess is that ms. hilton will emerge unscathed from this experience -- and well-positioned for that cheesy legally-blonde-in-jail summer epic next year.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

off-season wrestling update

after last night's tough but unbloggable heart-to-heart with the lad, i cracked a summit maibock and switched on the basement tv. yeesh, more lad -- this time playing rugby on channel 14. he's thrashing on me so much these days that i think he misses wrestling. me too. here are a few off-season developments.

1. the state rearranged the schools a bit this year, placing mounds view in the same section as champlin park and last year's undefeated heavyweight champeen sam maresh. oh yeah, tor v. maresh -- that will make for a fun january event.

2. aside from rearranging the sections, the state is also considering dropping a couple weight classes. it looks as though one of the lighter weights (e.g., 103) and one of the heavier weights (e.g., 215) could be eliminated, but nobody is talking about much change to the heavyweights at 285 or 275.

3. tor tells me that heavyweight wrestlers make for good football players. in fact, the minnversity recruited mr. maresh for football rather than wrestling. i also saw ncaa champeen cole konrad on the yahoo front page for his tryout with the ny jets, though he hasn't played football since 9th grade. here's his post to college wrestling message board:

Thanks for the support guys. I am going out there this friday. I just got off the phone with Brendan Prophett who is a scout with the jets, basically what it is, this weekend all the rookies that got drafted and 25 or so other guys that were undrafted are coming in and they are putting us through some classroom stuff learning plays then twice a day we go out on the field only in helmet and shorts to show how well we absorb what we've learned and so that they get the opportunity to see our foot speed. We will be repeating this same stuff saturday through monday when camp ends. Im fortunate to get an opportunity like this and really just plan to go and have fun with it, its a sport ive often wondered how well i could compete at. So if nothing else im going to have fun with it and hope i can impress the football guys with a wrestlers mentality cause we all know theres no sport as difficult as wrestling, both mentally and physically. After the camp i'll hop back on here and give you a little break down of how it went.

i'd personally rather see mr. konrad wrestle in beijing than block in buffalo, but maybe he could do both. i'm sure tor would, if he got the chance. what else is he gonna do on sundays?

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

go planting

i happened upon a little inspiration today, appended to an email from cole krawitz of the spin project.

the constructive imagery in this muriel rukeyser poem works in any season, i suppose, but it seems especially appropriate to think about planting and seeding in may.


we walk
we will make

we protest
we will go planting

Make poems
seed grass
feed a child growing
build a house

Whatever we stand against
we will stand feeding and seeding

I walk
I will make

Monday, May 14, 2007

three days grace

in three days i'll be jailed n' (hopefully) bailed to raise money for the muscular dystrophy association.

i've set up a page for donations, but have yet to raise any real folding money for the good people of the mda. as a department chair, i'd feel creepy hitting up my faculty, staff, and students and, sadly, my social networks are pretty much limited to faculty, staff, and students these days. perhaps i should target deans and university presidents instead.

if you'd like to make an anonymous or cleverly pseudonymized contribution to the bail effort, you can make a secure donation online in any amount.

governing through crime

the witty and erudite jonathan simon of berkeley's jurisprudence and social policy program has launched a book and a blog titled governing through crime.

as a fan of professor simon's poor discipline, i've got governing through crime at the top of my summer reading list. here's a blurb from the publisher:

Across America today gated communities sprawl out from urban centers, employers enforce mandatory drug testing, and schools screen students with metal detectors. Social problems ranging from welfare dependency to educational inequality have been reconceptualized as crimes, with an attendant focus on assigning fault and imposing consequences. Even before the recent terrorist attacks, non-citizen residents had become subject to an increasingly harsh regime of detention and deportation, and prospective employees subjected to background checks. How and when did our everyday world become dominated by fear, every citizen treated as a potential criminal? In this startlingly original work, Jonathan Simon traces this pattern back to the collapse of the New Deal approach to governing during the 1960s when declining confidence in expert-guided government policies sent political leaders searching for new models of governance. The War on Crime offered a ready solution to their problem: politicians set agendas by drawing analogies to crime and redefined the ideal citizen as a crime victim, one whose vulnerabilities opened the door to overweening government intervention. By the 1980s, this transformation of the core powers of government had spilled over into the institutions that govern daily life. Soon our schools, our families, our workplaces, and our residential communities were being governed through crime. This powerful work concludes with a call for passive citizens to become engaged partners in the management of risk and the treatment of social ills. Only by coming together to produce security, can we free ourselves from a logic of domination by others, and from the fear that currently rules our everyday life.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

cute yes, verifiable no

unless you're a sucker for cute and willing to suspend disbelief, you're really gonna despise this post. i can't help it, though, since i'll always miss my mom -- who bore a suspicious resemblance to the woman at left -- and get mushy-headed this time of year. i awakened this morning to a dj sharing one of those kids-say-the-darnedest emails, purportedly reporting second-graders' responses to questions about why god made mothers. i found a longer list in reno, but here are a few that brought a smile:

Q: Why did God make mothers?
A: To help us out of there when we were getting born.

Q: How did God make mothers?
A: Magic, plus super powers and a lot of stirring.
Q: What ingredients are mothers made of?
A: God makes mothers out of clouds and angel hair and everything nice in the world, and one dab of mean.

Q: Why did God give you your mother and not some other mom?
A: God knew she likes me a lot more than other people's moms like me.

Q: What kind of little girl was your mom?
A: My Mom has always been my mom and none of that other stuff.
A: I don't know because I wasn't there, but my guess would be pretty bossy.

Q: What did mom need to know about dad before she married him?
A: She had to know his background. Like is he a crook? Does he get drunk on beer?
A: Does he make at least $800 a year? Did he say no to drugs and yes to chores?

Q: Why did your mom marry your dad?
A: My dad makes the best spaghetti in the world. And my Mom eats a lot.
A: My grandma says that Mom didn't have her thinking cap on.

Q: Who's the boss at your house?
A: Mom doesn't want to be boss, but she has to because dad's such a goof ball.

Q: What's the difference between moms & dads?
A: Moms know how to talk to teachers without scaring them.
Q: What does your mom do in her spare time?
1. Mothers don't do spare time.
2. To hear her tell it, she pays bills all day long.

Q: What would it take to make your mom perfect?
A: On the inside she's already perfect. Outside, I think some kind of plastic surgery.
Q: If you could change one thing about your mom, what would it be?
A: She has this weird thing about me keeping my room clean. I'd get rid of that.

Friday, May 11, 2007

harvard econ recruiting video

i'd like to bring a bit more video to our grad recruiting process and to contexts, but one must always be cognizant that parodies are sure to follow. some stanford friends told me about the harvard econ recruiting video -- and about the wonderful parodies that followed shortly thereafter. here's my favorite, but there are plenty of others, including one from stanford.


after a fun day with the cool people of stanford, i'm waiting on the SFO to MSP redeye flight. the debate with larry bobo seemed to go pretty well, though we had some difficulty identifying points of contention or disagreement (perhaps one of us should have called for greater racialized mass incarceration, just to stir the pot. maybe next time).

we're scheduled to depart at 12:30 and arrive at 6 central time, so i'm hoping to get a little sleep on the plane. it is a full flight and i'm back in steerage, so this might be overly optimistic. no big deal, though. i've got a full day tomorrow, but nothing requiring great alertness: a delinquency final exam at 10:30, sara wakefield's big graduation ceremony at 1, and a party to celebrate the promotions of kathy hull, erin kelly, and penny edgell at 4. as long as i don't fall asleep onstage at graduation and resist the urge to make sleep-deprived speeches at these events, it should make for a fun, if somewhat punchy, conclusion to the academic year.

Monday, May 07, 2007

sometimes i wish i studied, say, medical students

gearing up for some summer prison research, i came across the following question on the institution's human subjects protection application:

Please initial below to indicate your understanding and consent:

_______. In the event that I am taken hostage, there will be no special condition made regarding my release.

dang. these forms have gotten longer and scarier in recent years. it makes our discussion of risks to the inmates seem tame, though the probability that the inmates will experience embarrassment or discomfort with our questions is, of course, 400 million times higher than the probability of a researcher being taken hostage. it only took a little tobacco to get one prison hostage released this year. i hope a few smokes wouldn't count as a "special condition" regarding my release...

debate on thursday

i'm debating professor larry bobo on thursday, as part of a stanford series on controversies about inequality. we're planning to tackle ideas about american exceptionalism, poverty, and the origins and persistence of mass incarceration.

i'm entering the fray with a mix of enthusiasm and trepidation, which i guess makes me trepidusiastic. though i lose arguments with tor and esperanza every day, i've never participated in an actual debate. got any pointers for a newbie?

Sunday, May 06, 2007

juicy ad copy

with the mad marathon coming up this month, i'm drinking more juice and less soda. last week, i caught some evocative imagery on the label of my delicious odwalla mango tango smoothie:

This all time favorite features thick and rich puréed mango, with apple juice, pure filtered water, orange juice, banana purée, real coconut and a dash of lemon. Close your eyes and let the fruit take over. Inhale the exotic scent of tropical fruits. Taste a silky swirl of fragrant mangos, ripe bananas and creamy coconut blended to a smooth perfection. Sip slowly and enjoy the rich and juicy passion.

mmm. doesn't that sound delightful? notice that the writer worked scent (exotic) and sight (close your eyes) into the copy, as well as taste. what else is going on here? first, consider the adjectives: thick ... rich ... pure ... real ... exotic ... silky ... fragrant ... ripe ... creamy ... smooth ... rich ... juicy. apart from the fine descriptors, the action verbs are also quite evocative: close your eyes ... let the fruit take over ... inhale the exotic scent ... taste a silky swirl ... sip slowly ... enjoy the rich and juicy passion.

i checked the descriptions for a couple other odwalla juices, but none held a candle to mango tango. my other favorites are blueberry b-monster (swirled ... dazzling ... boosted ... imbibe) and pomegrand (nestled ... wild ... crafted ... harmony ... neutralizing). on the latter product, perhaps the odwallans figured that pom wonderful had already cornered the market on pomegranate sensuality. i'm sure there's more to come, however, since blood oranges, kumquats, and persimmons seem ripe for juicy descriptors.

Friday, May 04, 2007

more institutionalization, less homicide?

bernard harcourt is guest-blogging at volokh this week, offering engaging posts on deinstitutionalization, incarceration, and homicide. he nicely explicates a new state-level analysis of the national evidence discussed in his january times op-ed and texas law review piece.

the pattern appears to hold up under a more stringent state-level panel specification: aggregate institutionalization (prisons plus mental institutions) bears a strong inverse relationship to homicide rates over a long historical period. moreover, the correlation between homicide and aggregate institutionalization is far stronger than the correlation between homicide and imprisonment. my sense is that the individual-level literature shows rather modest associations between violence and mental illness. what might account for the strong aggregate relationship?

big sandy y los straitjackets

today was supposed to finish with a dinner at the minnversity president's mansion at 9. i went home, tucked esperanza into bed, then heard the call of los straitjackets y big sandy at the turf club.

los straitjackets play clever guitar instrumentals while wearing mexican wrestling masks. but it isn't all guitar. they're sharing the stage these days with big sandy, a strong vocalist who tears up spanish-language versions of all day and all of the night and poison ivy. the dirty little secret of guitar instrumentals -- from the ventures to dick dale to duane eddy to link wray -- is that the drums really drive the songs. you just won't feel the pounding surf without delivering the beat. stick around for the encore, where they let the drummer stretch out a bit, and you'll hear what i mean.

los straitjackets lack the sharp edges of instrumentalists such as link wray or knuckeldrager, but they sure can strang. plus, their taut playing and well-but-cheesily-choreographed stage moves make for a lively show (with or without the world famous pontani sisters). i had a brief chat with the charismatic big sandy before he jumped onstage. he's a strong singer and stylish front-dude, who knows how to pick his spots. for further information, you might check the tour dates:

Fri, May. 4 2007 Fitzgerald's, Berwyn, IL
Sat, May. 5 2007 Fitzgerald's, Berwyn, IL
Sun, May. 6 2007 Shank Hall, Milwaukee, WI
Wed, May. 9 2007 Southgate House, Newport, KY
Thu, May. 10 2007 The Ark, Ann Arbor

Tue, May. 29 2007 Ram's Head Tavern Co-bill with The Iguanas. Annapolis, MD
Wed, May. 30 2007 Ram's Head Tavern Co-bill with The Iguanas. Annapolis, MD

Thu, May. 31 2007 World Cafe Live Co-bill with The Iguanas. Co-bill with The Iguanas.
Fri, Jun. 1 2007 State Theater Co-bill with The Iguanas. Falls Church, VA
Sat, Jun. 2 2007 8X10 Co-bill with The Iguanas. Baltimore, MD
Wed, Jun. 6 2007 Bowery Ballroom Co-bill with The Iguanas. New York, NY
Thu, Jun. 7 2007 Johnny D's Co-bill with The Iguanas. Somerville, MA
Fri, Jun. 8 2007 The Grand Auditorium Ellsworth, ME
Sat, Jun. 9 2007 Stone Mountain Arts Festival Brownfield, ME

Sun, Jun. 10 2007 Cafe Nine New Haven, CT
Thu, Jun. 14 2007 Empire Ballroom, Greensboro, NC
Fri, Jun. 15 2007 The Handlebar Greenville, SC
Sat, Jun. 16 2007 The Earl, Atlanta, GA

Tue, Jun. 19 2007 Sala (2)Twist Party Starring Kaiser George & The World Famous Pontani Sisters Barcelona, Spain

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

named after a pawn shop guitar

counting the lad's thrashed-upon bass collection and esperanza's daisy, we've now got eight guitars kicking around the house. the kids actually take pretty good care of their gear, despite my unconscionable negligence with regard to the instrument above.

my sweet mother, who was a bit of a romantic, liked to tell me i was named after a pawn shop guitar. more specifically, she told me i was named after the pawn shop guitar that kicked around my parents' house in west st. paul throughout my childhood -- a three-quarter size jackson-guldan model with C H R I S stenciled onto the headstock.

whenever i tell this story, all my axe-wielding friends tell me that i've just gotta get ol' C H R I S back into playing condition. i've made a few aborted efforts to rehabilitate her over the past four decades, but it is time to admit that i'll need professional help. i'm planning to stop by charles hoffman guitars for an estimate. i can't say whether they will take on this project, but i know they've seen worse.

UPDATE: after reading this post, dad told me that he got the guitar at a pawnshop on the pre-gentrified washington avenue in minneapolis -- about a half-mile from my current office. kinda unusual for a st. paul guy to get way over on the pacific side of the river, but the whole story is kinda unusual and it seems to bring a little symmetry to the story.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

you bet your professional association ...

i remember precious little from my brief tenure writing for the cardinal, but three journalistic conventions stuck with me: (1) always refer to one's beloved home institution as the University; (2) no apostrophe is needed when referring to the 1960s or some other period of time; and, (3) never ever abbreviate words such as association, associate, or assistant.

i guess that's why it struck me as bizarre to learn that my favorite sociological association carried an unfortunate moniker for most of its history. that's right, from 1905 until 1959, the ASA was actually the ASS. feeling squirrelly during this last week of classes, all sorts of questions came immediately to mind. i must learn more.

do you think the political scientists and psychologists made fun of the American Sociological Society, or were social scientists of the day not amused by such childish tommyrot? who would have stepped up strong to defend the ASS and oppose the name change? wouldn't some smart-alec grad student have brought it to our attention sometime before the kennedy era? what form of organizational inertia could possibly account for the strange persistence of such an acronym? wouldn't the fordham university college of kinesiology, for example, have changed its name as soon as the letterhead returned from the printing office?

i hate to give my fellow social scientists any more ammunition, but here are a few possibilities:
  1. we wouldn't know our [professional association] from a hole in the ground.
  2. we couldn't give a rat's [professional association] what they thought of us.
  3. we fell [professional association]-over-tin-cup on the way to the meetings.
  4. the economists opened a big can of whoop-[professional association] on us.
  5. we couldn't find our [professional association] with both hands and a mirror.

somewhere between rikers island and the hampton inn

although most jail and prison inmates still come from poor and working-class families, the middle-class has not completely escaped mass incarceration. on this point, the times offers an intriguing look at california's pay-to-stay jails. if your family can afford about $82 per day, you can serve out that pesky d.u.i. sentence in relative cleanliness and safety -- far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife.

[thanks to rick rudell for passing along the link]