Chris Uggen's Blog: October 2007

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

jeremy and the audience problem

jeremy freese, the hardest-working blogger in soc business, is taking a well-deserved break. one of the reasons he cites really caught my eye:

...sometime over the past year or so the audience problem caused by all the different relationships I had with people who were sometimes reading--family, friends, students, colleagues, prospective employers--made it harder for me to write with the same spirit with which I started.

i'm not certain how professor freese defines the audience problem but, like his cognitive runoff, this concept helps me make sense of my li'l online world. my audience problem involves my kids and their friends on the personal side, and the various constituencies of department chairs on the professional side.

on the personal front, esperanza brought me a sheet of myspace "grade my professor" comments last night that one of her friends had printed out. the students said mostly nice things about me, but esperanza saw such comments as embarrassingly nice. on the few occasions in which the kids object to something i've written in a post, i immediately delete the passage or the post. on the professional front, i've been surprised when my bloggy tributes to former deans or kvetches about life as a department chair get picked up by inside higher ed and blip up on the radar of administrators. they usually say nice things too, but i always have the sense that a bullet just whizzed past my ear.

sometimes, when a series of fascinating but non-bloggable events occur at work or home, i'll ask, "well, what can i write about?" i guess i could probably write several years worth of posts on the unsung heroes of rock and roll, but i can't imagine anyone would be interested in reading them.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

peer-reviewed blogging icons

via jon:

have you ever wanted to send a signal to distinguish more serious blog posts from goofier fare? if you are writing about peer-reviewed research articles, you might try using one of these icons for blogging on peer-reviewed research. there is even an automated tracking system in the works to collect and highlight these posts.

i don't see any sociology bloggers on the list yet, but i'll give it a go when appropriate. a few serving suggestions, from the bpr3 folks:

When you write a blog post about a peer-reviewed journal article or other work, just follow these steps.

1. Read the work carefully, making sure you understand both the research and its implications. Craft a thoughtful post about the work following our Guidelines.
2. Include a full citation of the original source. Add the DOI if it's available.
3. Click on the icon you want in the table below. You'll be taken to the sample code for that icon. Copy the code and paste it near the top of your post. Publish your post!

a purple harley-davidson sportster, maybe...

not to get all news of the weird on you, but...

according to the daily telegraph, a man was placed on scotland's sex offender registry for "trying to have sex with a bicycle."

wearing only a white T-shirt, naked from the waist down. "The accused was holding the bike and moving his hips back and forth as if to simulate sex."

dang. you mean, like a ten-speed? really? i won't delve into the ol' j-school who-what-why-when-where-and-freakin'-how questions, but come on! can you think of a less harmful fetish? me neither. that's why i'm gonna have to oppose the use of the registry for this one.

my last bicycle was a decidedly unsexy ross 3-speed that i picked up at st. vincent de paul's for $15. we enjoyed a healthy platonic relationship for many years, traversing madison's east johnson street through rain, sleet, and snow. the daily telegraph reporter failed to provide a picture of the scottish bike in question, so i'm printing a photo of my li'l purple dream bike. as inanimate objects go, this one is hot...

Monday, October 29, 2007

i useta like spaghetti

after a terrific life course center conference on friday, jukka and i wandered over to the cabooze to hear a li'l live music.

the opener was eddie spaghetti of the supersuckers, slinging an acoustic this tour and accompanied by the capable jordan shapiro on sg and pedal steel. i've long enjoyed mr. spaghetti's sneaky-smart songwriting and over-the-top/tongue-in-cheek/born-with-a-tail persona. five or six songs into this set, however, his misogyny got the best of me.

it wasn't just one song or his cutesy album covers, either, so i couldn't attribute it to singing in character. the hate just kept on comin' -- in slow, clear, unplugged fashion. how could we pump fist to words like this?

Got a beat up car up on blocks in my yard, got a beat up wife that i hit too hard

cocaine blues (blame johnny for this one):
I can't forget the day I shot that bad b*ch down

pretty f*ed up:
Ah she used to be pretty/But now she's just pretty f*ed up

c'mon, eddie. you're a grown man and a gifted writer. i know you can tell at least one heartbreak and pain story without invoking domestic violence. in fact, i'm betting you could write stonger solo stuff than john doe, dave alvin, and mike ness -- they all fronted rip-roaring bands too.

shooter jennings was the headliner. his set was a jumble of genres but mr. jennings has fine taste in bandmates, arena-rock moves, and his father's voice and sensibility. his thundering intro music also cleansed the palate between sets: tina turner's wah-heavy and ubersexy 1975 version of whole lotta love.

i'd like to believe that eddie spaghetti caught the irony here -- juxtaposing his domestic violence-themed set with one of tina turner's first solo outings. more likely, i suppose, he was ranting backstage about how ike got a bum rap.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

stangs in sweet sixteen

mounds view defeated an explosive roseville raider team tonight, advancing to the section championship game. as the clock ticked to zero, there were warm and sportsmanlike handshakes all around. nice moment.

white bear lake travels to mustang stadium for the section final friday night. the lads beat the bears in week 3, but know they'll be up against a battle-hardened and tough-as-nails white bear lake team this time.

dan mcmahon photography is responsible for fine game photos such as the one above. it shows how one of tonight's heroes, fullback andy osbourne, gets low and surveys the field as the o-line pries open a nice li'l hole. i'm sure that it just looks like #71 has a handful of the opponent's jersey.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

gallup: perceptions of crime problem remain curiously negative

the gallup organization has released its annual crime poll. as of october 4-7, about 71 percent of americans believe that there is more crime in the u.s. today than there had been a year ago.

only about 51 percent believe that crime is up in their area or neighborhood, as people generally believe that the crime situation is better where they live than in the nation as a whole.

such questions usually elicit pessimistic responses, but perceptions over the past few years appear to be growing increasingly out of step with the best available victimization data (see below). gallup researchers offer several explanations, including the following:

Americans’ pessimism about crime may reflect an overly negative interpretation on their part of the fact that the decline in crime has tapered off. It could possibly reflect a real increase in media attention to crime on the local and national news. Or it could reflect Americans’ broader dissatisfaction with the way things are going in the country, a sentiment that extends from ratings of President Bush and Congress to the economy, as well as to their satisfaction with the direction of the country more generally.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

build your wild self

i enjoyed a wild day, despite an annoying cold and an overstuffed schedule.

highlight #1: i gave a li'l testimony at the state capitol this afternoon on employment and crime. throughout the session, it was all i could do to avoid a long and lengthy coughing fit. my cell phone vibrated steadily throughout my brief presentation, but i don't think anybody noticed.

highlight #2: i got lost on the way to an alum's house for an undergrad recruitment event. once i arrived, i had some fun with the high-achievin' kids and their parents. a few knew tor, who is attaining some measure of fame/notoriety these days.

the picture comes from a lighter link you might enjoy, via moby and the bronx zoo: buildyourwildself.

threats and admonitions

the police arrived at 4:05 today, informing us of a BOMB THREAT in our building. the announcement came just as we were introducing a distinguished visitor to a full house of sociologists.

as department chair, i felt some responsibility to fix the problem. unfortunately, i lacked authority to override the college deans who ordered that the buildings be cleared or the armed officers who showed up to clear them. after some momentary confusion, we repaired to the minnesota population center [as director steve ruggles put it, what's goin' on? we're lousy with sociologists today] and the talk went off spectacularly. so far, no explosions.

today's evacuation reminded me of a classic bob casey story. jim capel tells it best:

Back when the Twins were playing at old Metropolitan Stadium, the team got a bomb threat before the game. "Bob," a team official told Casey, "there's a bomb threat, and we need to clear the stadium. So could you make some sort of announcement for people to calmly leave the stadium." Casey assured them that it would be no problem. Moments later, he grabbed the microphone and shouted, "Ladies and gentlemen, please don't panic but there's going to be an EXPLOSION in 15 minutes!"

other versions have him saying: "Ladies and gentlemen, you will have to evacuate Metropolitan Stadium. Please leave orderly and do not panic, BUT THERE'S A BOMB!!!!" and "in fifteen minutes, a bomb will EXPLODE!" this was perhaps not the best way to effect an orderly evacuation.

the minnversity offered a somewhat more measured response. here's the administration's email announcement:

The University Police Department has received a bomb threat for the following buildings: Blegen Hall, the Social Sciences Tower, and Anderson Hall on the West Bank. These buildings are being evacuated and closed for the day. Evening classes are canceled in these three buildings. Those individuals in Blegen Hall, Social Sciences Tower, and Anderson Hall should secure their work spaces, take personal possessions, and leave for the day.

i didn't mind leaving after the talk at 5:30 tonight, since the lad had a football playoff game at 7. when i got home, however, head coach jim galvin had sent his own threatening admonition:

There is a water leak at MVHS. Bathrooms are currently inoperable. Go before you come to the game.
Cherish Adversity,

oh my! that's far more serious than a bomb threat. as of 1 am, however, the social science tower had not yet blown up and the lad's mounds view mustangs had defeated the plucky visitors from centennial, advancing to saturday night's semi-final round of the section playoffs. i just hope they fix the bathrooms in time...

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

we couldn't let such a nice prison burn down

i've heard many stories about the pro-social behavior of prisoners, but here's a fine example from norway, via jonathon tisdall in aftenposten:

We couldn't let such a nice prison burn down," Ronny Stenberg said after he and fellow inmates at Arendal Prison in Fyresdal chose to fight flames rather than run.

"I don't dare think what would have happened if the prisoners themselves hadn't discovered the fire and helped fight it," prison guard Daniel Trollsås told newspaper Agderposten.

When firefighters arrived after about 40 minutes, a prisoner sleeping near the blaze had been pulled out to safety and the fire halted, with damage limited to only one barracks.

In appreciation of the effort, the prison threw a party last Wednesday after the blaze, with Trollsås buying cake and candy for everyone.

"I've done time in a closed prison, I wouldn't wish that on anyone," said Stenberg about the inmates' decision to preserve their prison.

Fyresdal grants prisoners a high degree of personal responsibility, and this program gave the approximately 30 inmates little hesitation in staying to fight for their facility rather than going on the run when the fire broke out.

About 10-12 years ago prisoners took responsibility and saved my life when one of the inmates went completely berserk and tried to kill me. Now I have had another chance to experience that this prison is full of so many good and reasonable people that when things get dangerous, it is the prisoners that take charge," Trollsås told Agderposten.

Monday, October 22, 2007

supreme court term limits?

every presidential cycle, it seems we get more talk and hand-wringing about how this election will forever alter the composition of the u.s. supreme court. true, yes, but it ain't necessarily so. what if we imposed term limits on those justices?

npr's justice talking took up the issue of supreme court term limits this week. personally, i'm often more flummoxed by the opinions of the court's junior members, but you might want to listen to jim lindgren's proposal and read his case against "gerontocracy" in the judicial branch. an excerpt:

While mental incompetence was rare in the first century on the Court, since 1898 it has become a regular occurrence for justices who serve more than 18 years; by one estimate about a third were mentally incompetent to serve before they finally retired.

yeesh. next thing you know, professor lindgren will be training his sights on tenured college professors and long-serving football coaches.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

proper citation

BakNBlack's metal that sounds like other metal in six non-accusatory volumes.

i've wanted to put something like this together ever since hearing "mountain of love" back-to-back with "waitress in the sky."

Saturday, October 20, 2007

turbo encabulation in the social sciences: the first six decades

to enhance the minnversity's research infrastructure, i'm working up a proposal to purchase a $3.5 million dedicated turbo encabulator for use in the social sciences.

i wouldn't have done this a few years ago, given the sinusoidal depleneration problems of early units. with rockwell's introduction of a retro encabulator, however, improvements in the panendermic semi-boloid slots have reduced side fumbling, while yielding marked improvement in the performance and reliability of the manestically spaced grouting brushes.

as any motorhead knows, chrysler engineering was first to bring turbo encabulator technology into mass production during the 1980s. as is often the case, however, the basic principles of turbo encabulation were presaged decades earlier. it is all there in the original text: j.h. quick's groundbreaking 1946 paper in the institute of electrical engineers, students quarterly journal volume 25.

while turbo encabulators are rarely employed in sociological research, they yield sufficiently robust spiral decommutation in criminological investigations to assess the modial interactions of both magneto-reluctance and capacitive directance.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

$300 well spent

according to an associated press story, a pennsylvania woman was issued a disorderly conduct citation on thursday for shouting profanities at her overflowing toilet within earshot of a neighbor. ms. dawn herb of scranton could face up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $300.

"It doesn't make any sense. I was in my house. It's not like I was outside or drunk," Herb told The Times-Tribune of Scranton. "The toilet was overflowing and leaking down into the kitchen and I was yelling (for my daughter) to get the mop."

Herb doesn't recall exactly what she said, but she admitted letting more than a few choice words fly near an open bathroom window Thursday night.

Her next-door neighbor, a city police officer who was off-duty at the time, asked her to keep it down, police said. When she continued, the officer called police.

this item paints the sort of sweet old-timey picture that awakens nostalgia for my ruby drive childhood. every springtime, when the neighbors would raise the windows, i'd learn all manner of creative cuss words. my neighbor, mr. ray, was a veritable pavarotti of profanity -- renowned for the power and beauty of his tone, especially into the upper register. ralphie put it much better, of course:

He worked in profanity the way other artists might work in oils or clay. It was his true medium; a master. ... In the heat of battle my father wove a tapestry of obscenities that as far as we know is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan.

so too with ms. herb, i'll bet. don't worry -- the keen legal minds at volokh quickly rushed to her defense and she should get off scot-free. in this age of youtube and cellphone recordings, however, i'm sorely disappointed that nobody taped and posted said outburst online. now i'll just have to imagine ms. herb as a character in my own flickering black-and-white sitcom -- an enraged pg-rated alice kramden, ethel mertz, or weezie jefferson, brandishing a plunger and exchanging blustering oaths with mr. ray.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

(very) young lifers

young lifers are making news again, this time in a piece by adam liptak in today's times. the figure is taken from work by the equal justice initiative, showing the number sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for crimes committed when they were 13 or 14 years old.

there's no stoppin' the cretins from hoppin'

though our brave mounds view lads are off to a fine 6-1 start, they'd best tighten up the chinstraps for arch-rival cretin's visit this evening. the undefeated cretins have been whuppin' up on the opposition, putting up scores of 56-7, 55-0, 42-13, 42-14, 49-7, 55-17, and 34-7.

yeesh. at least my lad has the opportunity to measure himself against the latest athlete in the long cretin line that runs from molitor, wienke, and birk, to ... what, hartnett (?). hmm. well, tonight marks the last game of the stangs' regular season, so the conference title is on the line. win or lose, however, the state tournament is just 'round the corner.

football rocks, of course, but as a participant? i'm probably more of a pillow fighter...

UPDATE: dang. the raiders were every bit as good as advertised. final score: cretin 42, mounds view 7.

Monday, October 15, 2007

blog action day

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day well, i couldn't just ignore blog action day. here's the pitch:

bloggers around the web will unite to put a single important issue on everyone’s mind - the environment. Every blogger will post about the environment in their own way and relating to their own topic. Our aim is to get everyone talking towards a better future.

this is a tough one for me. since my personal baseline levels of environmental behavior have been too shameful to blog about, it seems hypocritical to even post the li'l banner shown above. that said, my situation leaves me with some easy low-hanging environmentally-friendly fruit to be picked (hmm. is that an environmentally-friendly metaphor? i mean, picking all the low-hanging fruit is probably not the best path to sustainability).

today i'll start with baby step #1: i will no longer throw any recyclable paper or sody bottles into my office trashcan. it ain't much and i'm trying to do more, but first i've got to right the ship -- and start steering the ol' valdez in the proper direction. maybe you're in a similar situation.

hiv/aids in prisons

the bureau of justice statistics recently issued hiv in prisons, a report by laura maruschak. according to the report, the trend for both hiv infection and confirmed aids cases is generally downward. in new york, for example, there were 7,000 hiv/aids cases reported in 1999, relative to 4,440 reported at year-end 2005.

while the rate of aids appears to be dropping among prisoners, it is rising in the u.s. general population. the graph above shows the percentage of prison inmates with confirmed aids cases relative to the u.s. population age 15 or older. the rate of total hiv infection among prisoners also remains higher than that of the overall population, but it too is dropping: from 2.2 percent of male inmates and 3.4 percent of female inmates in 1999 to 1.8 percent of male inmates and 2.4 percent of female inmates in 2005.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

lifting smarter

i almost hid the sunday sports section from the kids this morning. not because of the minnversity's excruciating loss to northwestern yesterday -- though that should have been reason enough -- but to keep them away from the strib's foreboding feature: a beast to the core.

yeesh. the article offers a flattering portrayal of sam maresh, a champlin park high school student and minnversity recruit. though beast is a term of high praise among today's male (and female?) athletes, the headline and backlighting in the accompanying photo (above) creep me out. maybe i'm just sensitive as a criminologist. young men caught up in the justice system are often called beasts or monsters -- and these are not terms of endearment in such a context.

i've never heard anyone call my son a beast, though a tv commentator once referred to him a road grader after a nice block. i'm not sure whether that's better or worse. i guess i prefer old-fashioned prep profiles, where they note how nice the kids are to their grandparents and nod to their grade point averages or volunteer activities.

the real reason i wanted to hide the sports section, of course, is that my lad will be wrestling the already-intimidating-enough mr. maresh in a couple months. it is bad enough to know that he was the undefeated two-time state heavyweight champ. now tor gets to read how he also squats 471 pounds and walks on his hands to build core strength. if i see major holes in the walls and ceilings tonight, i'll know that the long-limbed lad tried emulating this workout regimen.

in my experience, every high school coach advocates strength training and most coaches would like their athletes to log a bit more time in the weight room. despite the pressure to get bigger and stronger, however, i've yet to come across any first-hand information about steroid use in minnesota high school athletics. i'm sure that some kids have taken steroids, but i rarely even hear whispers about it among the kids or their coaches. maybe that shouldn't surprise me. the sanctions are generally severe and the prevalence rates have been extremely low in any school self-report surveys i've seen.

moreover, at least one new study suggests that typical steroid users look nothing like high school or college athletes. based on a piece in the journal of the international society of sports nutrition, time describes the average steroid user in the following terms:

a highly educated professional, about 30 years old, who doesn't participate in organized sports at all — and never has. He uses steroids to build muscle, increase strength and look good. And he does it, not as an easy, stand-alone shortcut to body modification, but as a supplement to a carefully planned regimen of diet and exercise.

hmm. this profile sounds more like advanced graduate students or professors than high school athletes. i'm a bit skeptical of the sample ("a web-based survey of nearly 2,000 self-prescribed steroid users"), but i'm heartened that the research didn't identify high school athletes, parents, or coaches as typical buyers. the real message of the sam maresh profile is that elite high school athletes may have little use for steroids these days. in addition to walking on their hands, they seem to be lifting smarter now -- as much for injury prevention as for muscle mass.

Friday, October 12, 2007

big toe blues

the swampadelic and impossibly-named graham wood drout has taken home hardware for the ghosts of mississippi, which i'm sort of agnostic about. that said, i'll aver that his big toe is the best prison blues lyric in years.

especially when said lyric is combined with albert castiglia's guitar work. dang. dude shreds nasty. filthy nasty. in fact, it hurts so much to hear him on my li'l youtube compuspeakers, that i'm making my way to oakland park, florida to put my head inside a 4X10 up in front of the stage. sweet.

mr. drout's words:

working all day in the sun
big bossman got a big shotgun
gonna take my shovel and cut off my big toe
if i can't walk i won't have to work no more

countin' every little move i take
countin' every little rock i break
oh baby, think i'm gonna take it slow
if i can't walk, i won't have to work no more.

scars on my ankles where these chains are hanging down
tired of draggin' these chains all across the ground,
gonna take my shovel, cut off my big toe
if i can't walk, i won't have to work no more.

three years down on an 8 to 10,
got a feelin' i'll be back again,
gonna take my shovel, cut off my big toe
if i can't walk, i won't have to work no more.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

the 6 percent solution: gross and simmons on professors' political views

inside higher ed summarizes a careful new study by neil gross and solon simmons on the political views of american professors. i created the figure above from their table 8, which examines party affiliation in the top twenty degree-granting fields. i've only perused the paper, but i'm impressed by the response rate, sample size and survey items (e.g., adapting wording from questions on the american national election study).

i've organized the figure by percent republican, but there's likely an interesting story in the heterogeneous "independent" category as well. about 49 percent of sociologists self-identify as democrats, 46 percent as independents, and 6 percent as republicans -- a distribution strikingly similar to that of political science. criminal justice professors seem a bit more conservative, at 40 percent democrat, 40 percent independent, and 19 percent republican. overall, republicans are rare in the social sciences (excepting economics) and humanities, but somewhat more prevalent in business and engineering.

in earlier posts, i'd cited data suggesting an even more lopsided distribution in the social sciences. this made me "worry in a what's the matter with kansas way about sociologists losing the hearts and minds of america. aside from real or perceived biases in instruction, would sociological knowledge flourish or founder if sociology faculty looked a little more like the rest of the citizenry on this dimension?"

the new study partially allays my fears, though i'm still convinced that greater ideological diversity would improve the state of knowledge in my home disciplines. that said, i'll leave it to others to launch the affirmative action initiative for underrepresented conservatives in social science.


a couple days out from a long run or a big deadline, i sometimes feel like a wrung-out rag. my energy is flagging, yet much work remains.

what to do? well, that's easy: work it harder, make it better, do it faster, make us stronger.

daft hands is the product of austin hall, a carleton college kid from the class of '10. give mr. hall 3:44 of your life and just try not to smile.

Monday, October 08, 2007

koppel on prisons

i missed the initial broadcast last night, but i'm hearing good things about ted koppel's discovery channel prison documentary. from all reports, this one might be worth a bit of class time in an intro crim course.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

steamy race today

run happy was the message of the day at the twin cities marathon, but some of us were really battling. there was great live music almost every mile and the cities looked beautiful today. still, it was dang hot for an october morning in minnesota. i'm recovering slowly and starting to rethink my (non)training regimen. this was about the slowest of my twenty marathons, but i still felt pretty good about finishing today. i placed 2681 of 7215 finishers, or slightly out of the prize money. more importantly, however, i managed to keep my sorry carcass off the meat wagon for another year -- they were circling like vultures after mile 21...

Saturday, October 06, 2007

waiting up

i'm doing the twin cities marathon in a few hours, but i'm wide awake now awaiting the lad's return from a homecoming dinner/dance/afterparty. the kids kindly indulged the parents in a photo shoot before they left, which is the local standard practice. it was a sweet ritual, providing both pictures and reassurance. watching your sixteen-year-old head off for a big evening with friends, well... the mind reels with terrifying possibilities. after a face-to-face with tor's friends and their parents, i felt a whole lot better. still terrified, of course, but better. have fun, kids.

a fine times op-ed on prisoner reentry and debt

October 6, 2007
New York Times
Out of Prison and Deep in Debt

With the nation’s incarcerated population at 2.1 million and growing — and corrections costs topping $60 billion a year — states are rightly looking for ways to keep people from coming back to prison once they get out. Programs that help ex-offenders find jobs, housing, mental health care and drug treatment are part of the solution. States must also end the Dickensian practice of saddling ex-offenders with crushing debt that they can never hope to pay off and that drives many of them right back to prison.

The scope of the ex-offender debt problem is outlined in a new study commissioned by the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Assistance and produced by the Council of State Governments’ Justice Center. The study, “Repaying Debts,” describes cases of newly released inmates who have been greeted with as much as $25,000 in debt the moment they step outside the prison gate. That’s a lot to owe for most people, but it can be insurmountable for ex-offenders who often have no assets and whose poor educations and criminal records prevent them from landing well-paying jobs.

Often, the lion’s share of the debt is composed of child support obligations that continue to mount while the imprisoned parent is earning no money. The problem does not stop there. The corrections system buries inmates in fines, fees and surcharges that can amount to $10,000 or more. According to the Justice Center study, for example, a person convicted of drunken driving in New York can be charged a restitution fee of $1,000, a probation fee of $1,800 and 11 other fees and charges that range from $20 to nearly $2,200.

In some jurisdictions, inmates are also billed for the DNA testing that proves their guilt or innocence, for drug testing and even for the drug treatment they are supposed to receive as a condition of parole. These fees are often used to run the courts, the sheriffs’ offices or other parts of the corrections system.

A former inmate living at or even below the poverty level can be dunned by four or five departments at once — and can be required to surrender 100 percent of his or her earnings. People caught in this impossible predicament are less likely to seek regular employment, making them even more susceptible to criminal relapse.

The Justice Center report recommends several important reforms. First, the states should make one agency responsible for collecting all debts from ex-offenders. That agency can then set payment priorities. The report also recommends that payments to the state for fines and fees be capped at 20 percent of income, except when the former inmate has sufficient assets to pay more. And in cases where the custodial parent agrees, the report urges states to consider modifying child support orders while the noncustodial parent is in prison. Once that parent is released, child support should be paid first.

The states should also develop incentives, including certificates of good conduct and waivers of fines, for ex-offenders who make good-faith efforts to make their payments. Where appropriate, they should be permitted to work off some of the debt through community service. Beyond that, elected officials who worry about recidivism need to understand that bleeding ex-offenders financially is a sure recipe for landing them back in jail.

Friday, October 05, 2007

prison poetry contest

i've been reading and hearing as much prison poetry as non-prison poetry lately. i just got word of a contest offering both cash prizes and publication possibilities. the shot caller press prison poetry contest is open to all prisoners, ex-prisoners, family members or friends of prisoners, prison guards, prison volunteers, and prison workers.

i've never heard of the press, but they can sign me up for the forthcoming anthology. below the official rules, they offer advice that might benefit any poet:

Additionally: We do not look for literary merit. What we are looking for is creativity and originality. The correct usage of words or grammar is not a criterion in this contest; sometimes it is a plus. ... What makes a poem stand out is the use of language to create strong images, a topic that shows a unique awareness of prison life and a creative approach that shows originality.

amen to that. here's an excerpt from dietrich bonhoeffer's Who am I?, written in tegel prison in 1944:

...struggling for breath, as though
hands were compressing my throat,
yearning for colours, for flowers,
for the voices of birds,
thirsting for words of kindness,
for neighbourliness,
tossing in expectation of great events,
powerlessly trembling for friends
at an infinite distance,
weary and empty at praying,
at thinking, at making,
faint, and ready to say farewell to it all.

Who am I? This or the other?
Am I one person today and tomorrow another?
Am I both at once?
A hypocrite before others,
and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?
Or is something within me still
like a beaten army, fleeing in disorder
from victory already achieved?

Thursday, October 04, 2007

mass incarceration in the joint economic committee

good on ya, bruce.

the u.s. senate's joint economic committee held a hearing this morning on "mass incarceration in the united states: at what cost?" "to explore the economic consequences and causes of and solutions to the steep increase of the u.s. prison population."

i hope some good comes from it. here's the press release:

The United States has 25 percent of the world’s prisoners, despite having only 5 percent of the world’s population. The JEC will examine why the United States has such a disproportionate share of the world’s prison population, as well as ways to address this issue that responsibly balance public safety and the high social and economic costs of imprisonment.

Expert witnesses have been asked to discuss the costs of maintaining a large prison system; the long-term labor market and social consequences of mass incarceration; whether the increase in the prison population correlates with decreases in crime; and what alternative sentencing strategies and post-prison re-entry programs have been most successful at reducing incarceration rates in states and local communities.

Witnesses (as of September 27):

Dr. Glenn Loury, Economics and Social Sciences Professor, Brown University
Dr. Bruce Western, Director Inequality and Social Policy Program, Harvard University
Alphonso Albert, Executive Director, Second Chances
Michael Jacobson, Executive Director, Vera Institute for Justice

wanted: experienced guitar tech and brown m&m picker-outer

via bob mould (yes, that bob mould):

out of tune guitar solos are a fixture of rock lore, from layla to sweet home alabama, to young americans to pretty much anything by the replacements or sonic youth. but what happens when the guitar player is gloriously and spec-freakin'-tacularly out of tune? check out this ear curdling version of van halen's jump. just give it a minute ... ok ... yeeeeow-that was painful! sort of an ornette coleman meets spinal tap vibe.

i'm no van halenographer, but i notice that diamond dave's back in the fold. whither sammy? just to solidify his place in rock history, here's one from his early days of uncluttered potential. his guitarist, mr. montrose, was always in tune. and trading licks with mr. van halen (or mr. mould, for that matter)? he would have taken care of his own bad self.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

google news comments

a web 2.0 innovation, a public sociology opportunity, or both?

google news now invites people cited in news stories to comment directly upon them. this strikes me as an intriguing idea, though i bet it scares the bejeebers out of journalists. i rarely feel that i've been misquoted or radically misinterpreted in the media, but often have the sense that i can add something constructive to articles in which i'm quoted.

i gave a short interview with the chicago tribune yesterday about a harassment case, then found the following invitation (reprinted below) in today's inbox. the exclusivity bugs me a little, since i could envision this sort of discussion getting a bit inbred. does it make sense to invite the putative experts in a field to work up quick n' dirty op-eds as comments? most of us lack the time or inclination to craft careful opinion pieces or to publish letters to the editor about articles that use or misuse our work. this google news forum might offer an easier and more direct route to public commentary.

Hello Dr. Uggen,

We here at Google News noticed that you were in the news recently, in some articles about the sexual harassment case filed by Anucha Browne Sanders against Knicks coach Isaiah Thomas. We want to hear from you about the story, so we created a feature that will link your response to the story with coverage of the story we've collected. Not just anyone can comment, only you and other people mentioned in the story.

Here is the coverage that we have collected of the story so far from all over the Internet:

To provide us with a comment, all you have to do is reply to this e-mail with your statement. We will not edit your response and there is no deadline. However, the sooner you provide your comment, the more likely it will become prominent on Google News with the day's other top news stories.

When responding with your comment, please be sure to include:
* Your preferred name and title / organization for attribution.
* A title for your comment.
* A link to a bio for you or your organization.
* Some information on how we may verify your identity.
* Please read the license agreement at the bottom of this email. By replying affirmatively with a comment, you are agreeing to the license grant.

In the future, you don't need to wait for our invitation to comment on stories. If you want to comment on a different story that mentions you or your organization, please respond to this message ... with the information requested above, along with a link to the news article that mentions you or your organization.

Questions before you comment?

We have a lot more information about what Commentary is and how it works:

Want to see what a posted comment looks like? Check out our list of
recent comments here:

Thank you for helping us make the news more broad and informative!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

kids, loss, and rejection

esperanza had her first rehearsal of a new play last night. she was invited for a callback last week, which is sort of like getting a revise and resubmit. we didn't get the good word, however, until hearing the director's phone message after tor's game on friday. a real part in a real play!

actors must somehow find a way to bounce back from frequent, totalizing, and crushing personal rejection. sound familiar? academics must summon the same resiliency when our work -- work that we believe represents the very best contribution that we can hope to make in this world -- is rejected by editors and funders. esperanza has been through the ups and downs of the process several times before, so we were braced for any outcome.

i awaited the director's voice message with the same sense of excitement, optimism, and dread that i felt while opening those first few fat envelopes from asr and ajs as an assistant professor. i was probably a little more nervous on friday, but kids'll do that to you. i'd been banished to the living room because esperanza wanted to receive the news in private. i understood completely, since i've always opened those fat envelopes in the privacy of my office (or, as a privacy-deprived grad student, in a bathroom stall of the wizversity's social science building). i eavesdropped, of course.

i don't post pictures of esperanza online or reveal much information about her because ... well, let's just call a spade a spade here ... i'm accepting and enforcing a gendered double standard with regard to sharing private information online. there are also important differences between tor and esperanza with regard to age, size, self-defense skills, and temperament. if, like her older brother, she were a defiant 6'6" black-belt, i'd probably worry less about posting her picture.

as for the lad, his mustangs tasted rejection in the form of a close 21-14 overtime road loss. they plummeted from fourth in the state AP poll down to the ignominious others receiving votes category. the picture above captures the usually-swaggering mounds view offense in an apprehensive early moment -- i'm not sure whether this coincides with a we wuz robbed penalty (there were a few of those) or a dang, these are some strong/tough/fast s.o.b.s moment.

as with my article rejections and esperanza's lost parts, however, i'm confident that something good will come from this tough loss. the lads have two games to get well before second-ranked arch-rival cretin comes to town and three games before commencing a playoff run. by steeling the nerves, stoking the fires, and focusing the concentration, a tough rejection can be just the prescription for future success.

thinking experimentally

as chair, i attend far more meetings than talks these days. there's a talk at harvard today that i'd love to sink my teeth into:

The Applied Statistics Workshop presents another installment this week with Thomas Cook, Department of Sociology, Northwestern University presenting a talk entitled, "When the causal estimates from randomized experiments and non-experiments coincide: Empirical findings from the within-study comparison literature."

i've always been fascinated with social experiments and the collision between experimental and non-experimental methods. a lot of what we know about this subject comes from the literature on employment and training interventions. my reading of the cook, shadish, and wong paper discussed today is that non-experimental methods might fare better outside this context. hmmm. this sort of work strikes me as absolutely fundamental to understanding and contextualizing social scientific knowledge.

coincidentally, i'm editing proofs right now for thinking experimentally, a li'l essay written for experiments in criminology and law, edited by christine horne and mike lovaglia. my contribution is an homage to the fine graduate methods training that i received at the wizversity -- and, i suppose, an apologia for straying from the course.

Monday, October 01, 2007

no-caps: free the pinky!

the issue of lower-case-edness popped up in the comments recently. why does this blog eschew capitalization? hmm. i dunno. i've seen a few group discussions of this issue, but have yet to suss out my own rationale. writing a post about non-capitalization seems like precisely the sort of self-indulgent navel-gazing activity that gives us lower-casers a bad name. still, since at least one person is curious, i'll offer ten possible reasons.

10. efficiency. it is a bit quicker to type this way. but i'm sure that's not the real reason.

9. affinity. there's a whole community of non-capitalizers out there. daughter esperanza classifies it as an emo thing, but i'm long past the age when emo was a positively valued characteristic. [hmmm. maybe esperanza and i should start pitching another high-concept comedy: emo dad, starring robert smith and miley cyrus].

8. tone. in contrast to my scholarly or administrative writing, i'm self-consciously avoiding an authoritative tone in the blog. i'd rather convey casual informality here, since i'm generally popping off with unfiltered and half-baked ideas and reactions. there's a word for people who pop off in capital letters: blowhard. don't believe me? check out all the cool capital letters on this site.

7. kids. the instant message generation is bringing me around to the idea of productively tailoring my writing to the medium in which it will appear. as noted in #8, i'm trying to convey the message that this is only a blog.

6. cummings. and not just ee cummings, of course. innumerable poets and writers have experimented with punctuation, capitalization, and other writing conventions. the results are sometimes wonderfully expressive and sometimes lame.

5. pain. i've spent too much time at keyboards over the years and no-caps makes for less painful typing. try it -- free the pinky! isn't it easier on the hands and wrists? now, if i could just ditch that mouse...

4. contexts. no-caps just looks sooo cool in contexts.

3. personality. according to a commenter on my myers-briggs post, enfp's like me eschew capitalization as a stylistic choice.

2. mystery. my early posts were fully capitalized and rather carefully proofread. after a few months, however, i just stopped capitalizing. i really don't remember why or the extent to which this reflected a conscious decision, except that the words seemed to flow a bit easier this way.

1. freedom. for all of the above reasons, i never seem to get writer's block when typing in lower-case letters. you might give it a try if you are stuck sometime. for some, blogs offer li'l domains of free expression in a world of cautious, constrained, and coded communication. altering one's capitalization (or punctuation, i suppose) helps to draw a sharp line between one's serious scholarly and administrative writing and the much, much looser assemblage of thoughts collected in a blog.

of course, that's just me. actual writers can express themselves quite powerfully without a mote of capitalization or punctuation. here's a personal favorite from Mr. Edward Estlin Cummings:

a man who had fallen among thieves

a man who had fallen among thieves
lay by the roadside on his back
dressed in fifteenthrate ideas
wearing a round jeer for a hat

fate per a somewhat more than less
emancipated evening
had in return for consciousness
endowed him with a changeless grin

whereon a dozen staunch and leal
citizens did graze at pause
then fired by hypercivic zeal
sought newer pastures or because

swaddled with a frozen brook
of pinkest vomit out of eyes
which noticed nobody he looked
as if he did not care to rise

one hand did nothing on the vest
its wideflung friend clenched weakly dirt
while the mute trouserfly confessed
a button solemnly inert.

Brushing from whom the stiffened puke
i put him all into my arms
and staggered banged with terror through
a million billion trillion stars

-ee cummings