Chris Uggen's Blog: February 2008

Thursday, February 28, 2008

pop charts

i couldn't bring myself to post on the latest 1-in-100 study today, but lemme just say that 1% is a serious undercount. instead, i'll share some quite literal pop charts tonight, derived from a popular hip hop progenitor. only a jerk/dork/social scientist would point out the logical errors and inconsistencies in most of the visual depictions, but i've gotta give 'em ten out of ten for style. these two brought a smile:

closed circuit: wrestling tourney post

i've been monitoring the guillotine for state wrestling tournament updates, since tonight's opening matches at the excel center. i started watching to support my son, then to root for the fine lads i knew from his mounds view team, and now i'm just a full-on fan.

it was crazy fun to see tor bust out of the tunnel last year (at left), but i'm almost as interested in 2008.* five of our guys made it to state and i care way more about them than about any super bowl/world series/final four stuff. here's the surviving roster and results from the first round of matches:

at 119, we've got bigelbach, the smiling sophomore. fearless and hilarious, he'll take on dudes (more than) twice his size. he fought valiantly tonight, but went down in the third to an alexandria kid with a 33-3 record.

next up, both senior captains made it to state.

at 135, our man piersak was upset, losing 10-7. it is a double-elimination tourney, so i'm sure he'll wrestle back through the ranks.
at 140, balzer won easily, but give the rochester lad some credit -- he must've fought hard to escape andrew's long arms and his devastating cradle.

at 152, we've got good ol' mulvaney, who fought through sections to take a true second spot. a gregarious junior with a million dollar smile and a wicked headlock, terry is a dark horse this year. he lost tonight, but he's strong and quick enough to put anybody on their back.

at 160, finn efficiently dispatched a fine wrestler in the first round. he's got great strength, ninja-like balance, and a lifetime of experience throwing down with his brothers.

at 171, i'm rooting for stone. he moved over to cooper this year, but tor's old linemate remains a mustang at heart.

good luck to all the young men wrestling this year. it takes a ridiculous amount of training, dedication, and courage just to get on the mat. anyone who makes it to state is beyond absurd. carpe diem, lads.

* when tor ran out, the only thing i could think of was what the heck is going on with his hair? apparently his bangs were non-regulation, so he self-inflicted a scarifying haircut on himself at the weigh-ins.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

wfb, rip

i spent a li'l time with gore vidal's essays in my formative years, which led me to spend a li'l time with those of his greatest foil, william f. buckley. mr. buckley was famously .... problematic on issues of race, gender, and sexual orientation. nevertheless, his voluminous writings reveal much about american conservatism -- and the effective uses of language.

a few quotations:

liberals and conservatives

• Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.

• A Conservative is a fellow who is standing athwart history yelling "Stop!"

• Liberals, it has been said, are generous with other peoples' money, except when it comes to questions of national survival when they prefer to be generous with other people's freedom and security.

• I will not cede more power to the state. I will not willingly cede more power to anyone, not to the state, not to General Motors, not to the CIO. I will hoard my power like a miser, resisting every effort to drain it away from me. I will then use my power, as I see fit. I mean to live my life an obedient man, but obedient to God, subservient to the wisdom of my ancestors; never to the authority of political truths arrived at yesterday at the voting booth. That is a program of sorts, is it not? It is certainly program enough to keep conservatives busy, and liberals at bay. And the nation free.


• The academic community has in it the biggest concentration of alarmists, cranks and extremists this side of the giggle house.

• I'd rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.

• The majority of the senior class of Vassar does not desire my company and I must confess, having read specimens of their thought and sentiments, that I do not desire the company of the majority of the senior class of Vassar.


• I won't insult your intelligence by suggesting that you really believe what you just said.

• Life can't be all bad when for ten dollars you can buy all the Beethoven sonatas and listen to them for ten years.

• Some of my instincts are reprehensible.

• One can't doubt that the American objective in Iraq has failed....different plans have to be made. And the kernel here is the acknowledgement of defeat.

i guess that's why they call it perverted justice

as you may have heard, a former texas prosecutor sent sexually suggestive emails to an nbc producer posing as a 13-year-old boy. when local law enforcement sent in a SWAT team, apparently at the behest of the network, the guy killed himself.

few will have sympathy for anyone sending dirty emails to kids (or, to be precise, those posing as kids). that said, i could find no evidence suggesting that the man had ever engaged in any violence against kids or adults. but for the network's intervention, he may never have acted on the impulses that drew him into dateline's spotlight.

via newsday:

A federal judge handed a legal victory Tuesday to a woman who claims "Dateline NBC: To Catch A Predator" led her brother _ a Texas prosecutor _ to kill himself after camera crews and police officers showed up at his home in a sex sting.

In a scathing ruling, U.S. District Judge Denny Chin permitted a $105 million lawsuit to go to trial, saying a jury might conclude the network "crossed the line from responsible journalism to irresponsible and reckless intrusion into law enforcement."

Louis William Conradt Jr., an assistant prosecutor in suburban Dallas, fatally shot himself after he was accused of engaging in a sexually explicit online chat with an adult posing as a 13-year-old boy, according to a lawsuit filed by his sister.

In his ruling, Chin said the network "placed itself squarely in the middle of a police operation, pushing the police to engage in tactics that were unnecessary and unwise, solely to generate more dramatic footage for a television show."

Chin wrote that a reasonable jury could find there was no legitimate law enforcement need for a heavily armed SWAT team to extract a 56-year-old prosecutor from his home when he was not accused of any violence and was not believed to have a gun.

He said a jury might conclude it was done solely to sensationalize and enhance the entertainment value of the arrest.

"A reasonable jury could find that by doing so, NBC created a substantial risk of suicide or other harm, and that it engaged in conduct so outrageous and extreme that no civilized society should tolerate it," Chin said.

Before issuing his ruling, Chin said he reviewed a copy of the Feb. 20, 2007, episode. In her lawsuit, Patricia Conradt claims a police officer at the scene of the shooting told a "Dateline" producer: "That'll make good TV."

Monday, February 25, 2008

crime and partisanship, 2008

brad sends word of topline results for a december 2007 crime poll. the research was conducted by third way, with the report authored by jim kessler, rachel laser, michael earls, and nikki yamashiro.

the upshot is that americans still see crime as a very serious issue, they are split about equally with regard to whether democrats or republicans would best respond to crime, and they favor (compulsory) rehabilitation programs. here's the full text:

Third Way Crime Poll -- Topline Highlights

These are the highlights of a 1,139 person survey conducted by Cooper & Secrest Associates, December 15–19, 2007 on voter attitudes toward crime.

Americans View Crime as a Resurgent Threat
Although, crime does not rival the economy or Iraq as a front burner issue, there are clear indications that the public is becoming more concerned about the issue.
• 57% rate crime as a “very serious” issue
• By a 56-11% margin, the public believes there is more crime rather than less crime in America than one year ago
• 78% say that children are more vulnerable to crime than ten years ago
• By a 69-19% margin, Americans feel that crime is more of a threat to their own safety than terrorism

Most Americans Are Non-Ideological Pragmatists on Crime
Our research identified three distinct groups of Americans on the crime issue. The most prominent was the 55% of Americans whom we call “Solve-the-Problem” voters. They are non-ideological pragmatists who are open to a very active government role in crime prevention and intervention if properly designed and framed to emphasize personal responsibility. These voters are evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans and are dispersed evenly throughout the country. The remaining two groups are far more ideological. “Throw-the-Book” voters comprise a small minority of the population and oppose any efforts at changing criminal behavior beyond enforcement and prison. They are overwhelmingly conservative. “Read-a-Book” voters believe wholeheartedly in rehabilitation and are far more likely to be liberal than the general population. They rank crime lower as an issue and see crime as slightly less of a threat to themselves.

Democrats and Republicans are at Parity on the Crime Issue
When asked who would do a better job of “working to reduce crime,” 33% chose Democrats, 31% chose Republicans, and 36% volunteered “not sure” or “neither party.” Compared to the 1970s and 80s, when the country trusted only conservatives to combat crime, our polling indicates that there has been a significant shift in public opinion towards parity. However, Americans still have distinct preconceptions about both parties’ approaches to the issue. They see Democrats as too quick to blame crime on circumstances, like bad schools, broken families, and dysfunctional neighborhoods. They see Republicans as holding individuals responsible for their own actions, but straying too far towards punitive sentencing for crime.

Voters Favor Intervention Efforts to Reduce Crime
There is strong support for programs aimed at reducing crime, but those designed to make people improve and take responsibility scored the best. For example, when prison rehabilitation programs were defined as a requirement of, not a benefit for, prisoners—support soared. Specifically, a policy forcing prisoners “to work, get an education, and learn skills because they need to be productive when they get out” scored 36-points higher (with 91% approval) than one providing prisoners who have “difficult family, economic or mental health circumstances” with the “proper counseling and training they need to be rehabilitated.”

Sunday, February 24, 2008

spring training

in his twins report this morning, jim souhan of the strib offered one of those classic full-circle spring training stories:

Brendan Harris, the new Twins second baseman, remembers just such a moment. He was a kid, visiting Hammond Stadium and wearing a bright white cast on a broken arm. Kelly approached a group of fans and singled out Harris.

Harris remembered this exchange:

"How'd you do that, son?"

"Playing basketball."

"What does that tell you?"

"No more basketball?"


at 6'1", mr. harris was probably a longshot for the NBA anyway. still, it is nice to see him reunited with the kind curmudgeon in fort myers this spring.

if you like this shot of TK, you can find many more fine spring training pics at minnesota sports central.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

hey leader! reverend james orange

reverend james orange (shown, at right) passed away last week.

the obits tell at least part of his story. according to jesse jackson, there might have been no march from selma to montgomery without reverend orange. according to joseph lowery, the southern christian leadership conference founder, "without james orange, there would have been no movement across the deep south."

the atlanta constitution noted that reverend orange

held to the philosophy of nonviolence, reflecting peace with dignity. To that end, he recalled, “I’d take a hit. I’d take a lick, a whupping—without retaliating. But I never, not once, went limp in a demonstration. I would walk to the truck, or they’d beat me to the truck, but I still wouldn’t go limp. I never would.”

he may not be an unsung hero of the civil rights movement, but reverend orange was the kind of hero who was far more concerned with inspiring others than with promoting himself or his own courageous accomplishments. "hey, leader!" he'd call to new friends and old, as "both greeting and rallying cry," ostensibly to "imbue a sense of purpose and responsibility into every person he met."

the obits rightly focus on reverend orange's work leading up to the voting rights act of 1965 but he continued to fight injustice to the present. when our paths crossed in atlanta a few years ago, he struck me as a big strong guy -- more like a just-retired defensive tackle than a distinguished reverend in his sixties. though his warm manner put everyone at ease, i felt like a total fraud when i heard that greeting.

Friday, February 22, 2008

launch party at 4 today

the university's bookstore at coffman union hosts a launch party for contexts today at 4. if you're in the neighborhood, please stop on by for a li'l wine, cake, and commentary. in addition to the editorial crew, john rash of campbell mithun and the rash report will be on hand to say a few words about contexts and taking social science out of the ivory tower.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

new bjs report on campus law enforcement

the bureau of justice statistics just released a new report on campus crime and law enforcement. what can be learned from these data? in comparison to the general population, college campuses have a relatively low rate of violent crime (about 62 per 100,000 population on campus, relative to about 466 per 100,000 in the general population). overall, rates of both violence and property crime declined on campus from 1994 to 2004. in both years, crime rates were significantly higher in private than in public schools, with the private campus violent crime rate actually rising over this period. i'm not sure how to account for this, but i'd imagine there is great heterogeneity within both the private and the public campus categories.

the report shows that NYU had the largest campus law enforcement agency, but that howard university reported the greatest number of sworn officers (those with full arrest powers granted by a state or local government).

top-10 campuses ranked by number of full-time law enforcement employees
345 New York University
235 University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
202 Temple University
200 Howard University
194 University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey
190 University of Southern California
180 Michigan State University
170 University of Alabama - Birmingham
156 George Washington University
155 University of Florida

i'd like to see more than the top-10 before drawing any inferences, but east coast universities such as temple and penn appear to hire more sworn officers than universities in the west or midwest. i may end up digging a bit deeper into these data, as there is some talk of expanding campus law enforcement to address security concerns at the minnversity.

top-10 campuses ranked by number of sworn officers
166 Howard University
119 Temple University
100 University of Pennsylvania
97 University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey
95 George Washington University
86 University of Florida
79 Georgia State University
78 Yale University
76 University of Maryland - College Park
76 Vanderbilt University

closed circuit to high school wrestling fans

though my tie-dyed heavyweight retired from wrestling after last year's wild state tournament run (at left), i'm still getting lots of hits on the wrestling posts i've done over the years. here are a few updates for the wrestling-deprived as we enter the 2008 tourney:

to my surprise, tor stayed retired and didn't return for his junior season. he'd look pretty skinny wrestling at 285 anyway, as the large lad is now a lean and lanky lad, easily mistaken for a basketball player. football recruiters suggest he's now a bit light for a division-I offensive tackle, but he's healthier now and d-II or d-III seem just fine with him. he's doing a great job in school this year, so i'm optimistic he'll have some fine college choices.

tor's mounds view teammates just finished a good season, though they did not advance from the section tournament and won't be going to state this year. i attended a couple matches to cheer on the guys. the mustangs graduated some terrific senior leaders last year, but i was also told that "they're missing their silverback." i realize this is an objectifying statement, but i took it as a compliment to tor and i couldn't have been prouder. nobody ever called me a silverback! who knows? maybe he'll return for his senior season. as for this year's tournament, i'll be rooting for the scrappy centennial lads -- mounds view's well-coached and honorable rival and the new section champ.

for his part, tor is gearing up for spring rugby, where his club has fallen from state champs from 2001-2005, to runners-up in 2006, to third place in 2007. it might be fun to travel with the team on one of their spring trips to kansas city or the midwest regionals in indiana. from the sidelines, at least, rugby looks like a lot of fun.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

commander-in-chief and distinctions not cost-effective

i hesitate to blog about politics, since i'm just another ill-informed american citizen and no real expert, but... i watched a li'l primary coverage last night. the democratic strategists had suddenly reframed the ol' "foreign policy" discourse around the term commander-in-chief. in discussing military cred and qualifications, they were seriously debating whether hillary clinton or barack obama might have some sort of edge in commander-in-chiefdom over republican john mccain.


well, let's add it up. according to his web bio, senator mccain was the son and grandson of navy admirals. he attended college at the united states naval academy. during his 23rd bombing mission, he was taken as a prisoner of war, and when released years later he regained his naval flight status. senator mccain then served as the naval liaison to the united states senate, retiring from the navy in 1981. his naval honors include the silver star, bronze star, legion of merit, purple heart, and the distinguished flying cross.

i won't belabor the point or besmirch their lack of military experience (which no doubt exceeds my own), but i can't imagine that either democratic candidate will have an advantage over senator mccain in any context in which the phrase "commander-in-chief on day one" is invoked. in fact, no candidate since dwight david eisenhower would have an edge over senator john mccain in this arena. so, any debate or litmus test involving the proven capacity to "stare down the [X]kies" would seem to be a loser for the dems.

senator clinton has a few years of good service on the armed services committee, i suppose, but the commander-in-chief throwdown would be a trap for either of the democrats. by the way, couldn't the dems have seen such a throwdown coming since about november 2004? or, was senator mccain's candidacy completely unforeseeable to party leaders, along with the idea that the nation might still be at war in 2008?

i'd never argue that military service is a prerequisite for the office, of course, but i'd suggest that the democratic nominees may want to flag military records when they're scanning the resumes of potential running mates. since senator clinton and/or senator obama will be portrayed as dangerously left-leaning liberals in the general election (geez, i hope the dem leadership can at least see this coming), i'd suggest they seek a moderate veep with a distinguished record of military service. somebody like, i dunno, john mccain. yeah, that's the ticket.

note: senator clinton/senator obama mashup courtesy of boingboing.

statistical probability and trust

we've added a new back-page column in contexts titled one thing i know, in which sociologists nail down a fundamental lesson or insight from a career of research. npr's morning edition provides a similar but less social-sciencey forum, titled this i believe.

astronaut and fellow usjlper dan tani offers a characteristically optimistic worldview in sunday's essay, based on, well, his view of the world. you can get a pretty good sense of his perspective, since dan also shares a few of his fine photos with npr.

It's not that I think that everything will work out OK; it's that I think that everything will probably work out OK... We climb aboard extremely complex machines which hurl us into space, and we have to trust that every engineer, every technician and every manager has done their job, and that we have a high statistical probability of success.

after more than three months aboard the international space station, dan and the atlantis crew touched down safely in florida at 8:07 this morning. welcome home, dude.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

law school: it's lewd, lascivious, salacious, outrageous!

my stereotypes of law school involve a crushing first-year workload, a culture of cutthroat competitition, high-stakes final exams, and a "case method" of teaching that sets students adrift with only a leaden case book as life preserver. fun? not so much.

that's why i was relieved to discover the university of utah's jackie chiles law society, which "engages legal students, scholars and professionals in meaningful discussion about music, television, movies, and other forms of popular culture that touch on American legal issues."

like mark galanter's lowering the bar, a serious analysis of lawyer jokes*, the chiles society can likely tell us a great deal about the place of law in american culture. here are a few recent and upcoming lectures:

  • Hank Hill’s Tips for Understanding Federal Law
  • The Trial of Krusty the Clown
  • Dunder Mifflin and Corporate Management Responsibility
  • Cosmo Kramer v. Sue Ellen Mischke- Does the bra
well, they certainly have a knack for catchy titles and for public relations. as the picture above makes clear, they even got actor phil morris (a/k/a the real jackie chiles) to attend their 2007 banquet.

*"An ancient, nearly blind old woman retained the local lawyer to draft her last will and testament, for which he charged her two hundred dollars. As she rose to leave, she took the money out of her purse and handed it to him, enclosing a third hundred dollar bill by mistake. Immediately the attorney realized he was faced with a crushing ethical question: Should he tell his partner?"

"Two muggers met in an alley, one of them breathless.I just tried to mug a lawyer," the man panted."Cripes," said the other. "He get anything?"

—excerpted from Mark Galanter's Lowering the Bar

Monday, February 18, 2008

race, crime, and the scalabrine counterfactual

having just posted on an espn magazine article about perceptions of the n.b.a. as an urban league, i came across a similarly thought- provoking observation in the same issue. brian scalabrine of the celtics offers this li'l thought experiment on race and perceived criminality:

"I think the misperception of our league is definitely race-driven. Suppose that for a whole year, none of our players got into a fight, no one got arrested, no one got ticketed for speeding. Do you think the public would have a different opinion of the league? I bet not. But I do think public opinion would be completely different if 75% of the players in the NBA were white instead of black. And if our image problem is race-driven, we can't control that."

i'm not sure he's correct, but mr. scalabrine's argument is so well-stated that i might have to try it out on my delinquency class this semester. having read the quote, i just had to check out to see where the young man went to school and whether he might've taken a good sociology course or two. sure enough, his bio notes that mr. scalabrine "earned his degree in social science from USC."

an age-invariant relation between experience and performance?

john "the penguin" bingham's running column raises an unusual life course hypothesis this month:

"A running guru once told me that no matter the age you start running you can expect to improve your PR [personal record] throughout the next seven to 10 years. If you want to see faster times after that, you'd better find a few downhill courses." [emphasis added]

i haven't seen any data bearing on the guru's hypothesis, but it sounds about right to me -- at least for any distance greater than a mile and for any age in the range between 16 and 106 years. it might seem obvious to suggest that a runner who first laces 'em up at 20 will likely peak around age 27 or 30, but friends who started running at 30 or 50 or 70 also seem to make marked improvements over their first decade. moreover, those who survive as runners in all of these age groups almost inevitably decline in performance over their second decade pounding the pavement.

are there any other activities that would exhibit a similar age-invariant relationship between experience and performance? i'm stumped. in some demanding physical activities, performance rises and falls very rapidly (e.g., playing linebacker, opening beer bottles with one's teeth), but the rate of improvement and decline surely varies for twentysomethings and sixtysomethings. for other activities, there is a gradual, running-like ramp-up in performance for a decade or more, but decline is hardly inevitable and likely depends more on age than duration (birdwatching, cooking, chess, karaoke).

distance running (or similar activities, such as bicycle racing or wheeling) might be unique in that almost anyone can pick it up at almost any age, it rewards long years of training and experience, and it ultimately imposes a predictable physical toll. hmmm. i guess i can think of one activity that might exhibit a similar age-invariant relationship between experience and performance, but i dasn't mention it. after all, this is a g-rated family blog.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

how urban is the n.b.a.?

after reviewing an espn report on the hometowns of u.s.-born professional basketball players, demographer william frey concluded that the "NBA is much more of a suburban population than most would have thought." the average player hails from a city that is 59% white, which is significantly lower than the nation as a whole. on most other dimensions, however, the hometowns of NBA players are quite comparable to anywhere, u.s.a.: their average population is 112,017, 79% of their adult residents have a high school degree, and their average income is $38,127. professor frey concludes, "there's a broad spectrum of areas the players come from, and a significant number come from white, middle class suburbs."

given the neighborhood-by-neighborhood heterogeneity within any town or city, i'd be careful about drawing inferences before asking some basic level-of-analysis questions. that said, i'm guessing that a tract-level analysis would likely tell a similar story. the article notes that players hail from places such as carroll, IA, sugar land, TX, and forest park, OK.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

li'l orphan esperanza

i had one of those awful bad-dad moments last night. i was stuck in the office at 8:15 when i realized that esperanza's middle-school production of annie had begun at 7. nooooooo!

she was understanding, of course, but i felt awful. today's shows were all sold out, so i feared i'd completely missed her big play. fortunately, i managed to hustle a ticket to today's matinee. as is often the case, i am indebted to the restorative and healing work of ticket scalpers. bless you, my friends.

my own favorite musical is guys and dolls -- where i'd surely cast esperanza as sister sarah -- but annie was fun and full of surprises. they managed to find a ginormous-voiced middle-schooler to do warbucks, a mean ol' miss harrigan, an actual ham-it-up stage dog, a fine cast of orphans and maids, and well-chosen actors for every role. in particular, the kid who played f.d.r. simply nailed the voice and mannerisms. dude must've been breaking down film for weeks.

as of 8:53 pm, the cast party rages on. i've attended a few parties in my day, but nothing like these. after watching esperanza's theater buddies the past few years, i'm now convinced that no gathering could compete with the energy and collective effervescence of a middle-school cast party on closing night.

i didn't know barnacles was a thespian bar...

as a wise sociologist told me in graduate school, "the people won't tell ya a thing if yer sittin' way over there in the non-smoking section." these days, however, smoking is forbidden in public spaces throughout my home state of minnesota.

well, at least one clever smart alec is resisting the status politics of the smoking ban. mark benjamin noticed that the law carved out certain exceptions to the statewide prohibition:

"scientific study participants, native americans, tobacconists, truckers, farmers, actors and actresses and ... wait! What was that last one? That's right. When the smoking ban was debated, some theater-going, latte-drinking, Volvo-driving legislators got their undies all in a bundle that a few performers might not be allowed to smoke cigarettes on stage. Really. They worried that performers might have to suck on straws or pencils or -- you know -- "act" like they were smoking. Heavens! Whatever would become of The Theatre?"

spotting this loophole, mr. benjamin hatched a novel plan. he was so moved by the specter of heroic old regulars chased out of the state's vfw's and american legion halls that he suggested the following:

"if you're a bar owner and don a beret, declare your bar a stage, hand out scripts and direct your patrons -- ahem -- performers to fire up some heaters, then you've got a bona fide "theatrical production" going on...Our shameless legislators favored the artistic integrity of a few theater owners over the blue-collar work ethic of a few thousand small bar owners. But our bar owners don't have to take it any longer. If they want, they can put on their very own "Theater Nights," set up "Acting" and "No Acting" sections, notify patrons that there will be some smoking during the performance and defy the government to define Art. It's not the Freedom to Breathe Act; it's the Freedom to Act Act. If you're a small bar owner, hand out scripts and cigs and tell your patrons to break a leg.

mr. benjamin wasn't just posing a hypothetical. last weekend, he organized an impromptu production of the tobacco monologues at a friendly bar called barnacles, somewhere in greater minnesota. there's a video, of course, with a theatrically dressed mr. benjamin waxing poetic about the class politics of smoke-free bars.
though i've never smoked and i enjoy the fresh air in modern taverns, i've gotta confess that i'm rooting for this guy. of course, i'll be rooting from the non-acting section.

Friday, February 15, 2008

GIS opening in geography

i just agreed to serve on the geographic information science search committee for the minnversity's geography department. i've long admired good spatial analysis, so i'm looking forward to learning a bit more about the state of the art in geography.

The Department of Geography in the College of Liberal Arts, announces the availability of one 100%-time, nine-month, contract faculty appointment at the rank of assistant professor for three years in Geographic Information Science at the Twin Cities campus beginning Fall Semester 2008. Appointment will be for three years, with possible renewal for up to two additional years. The position requires teaching four semester-length courses per academic year in some combination of geographic information science, cartography/visualization and spatial analysis at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The successful candidate also will be expected to participate in student advising.

Preference is for a scholar with a broad background in GI Science and a strong record of research. The essential minimum qualification is ABD in geography or a closely related field by the time of appointment. Preferred qualification is a PhD in geography or a relevant field. Salary depends on qualifications and experience and will be consistent with existing collegiate and University policies. Contract faculty in the College of Liberal Arts are expected to maintain an active program of scholarly research, develop and teach undergraduate and graduate courses, advise undergraduate and graduate students, and contribute service appropriate for the rank of appointment to the department, college, and profession.

The Department of Geography at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities provides a multitude of opportunities to participate in GIScience activities including the 50- student Master of GIScience program, active UCGIS linkages among departments, and strong cooperation with local and regional bodies including the internationally recognized MetroGIS and Minnesota GIS/LIS. More information about the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Campus, the Department of Geography, and the Master of GIS program is available at the following URLs:

Thursday, February 14, 2008

restaurant closings

both fine food and fun food are abundant in my fair cities, which would seem to indicate a healthy restaurant scene at the community or metro level of analysis. at the individual level, however, the restaurants are like dandelions. hundreds shoot up every spring and bloom in full flower for a week or two, before we either mow them down or the winds quickly scatter their talent to somebody else's yard.

i learned today that st. paul has lost the zander cafe, minneapolis has lost the my-t-fine bakery and betty jean's chicken-n-waffles and the city pages has lost longtime food writer dara moskowitz. i mean, even marcus samuelsson's aquavit, which seemed perfectly suited to the area, failed to take root in minneapolis.

i would hypothesize that both the birth rate and the survival rate of good restaurants is unusually low in the twin cities metro, but i really have no basis for comparison. my sense is that failure rates are high throughout the industry, but i'm surprised that quality isn't a better predictor of longevity.

so, there are always good restaurants here, but they rarely seem to last. is there a simple sociological story that might explain this pattern as (a) characteristic of industry as a whole; (b) a product of unusual features of the twin cities market; or, (c) the misperceptions of casual observers like me?

proto-thud luv

here's a proto-metal ode to those baking heart-shaped cookies this valentine's day. song of a baker is forty years old, but soon and inevitably ripe for a white stripes cover.

There's wheat in the field
And water in the stream
And salt in the mine
And an aching in me.

I can longer stand and wonder
Cos I'm driven by this hunger.
So I'll jug some water, bake some flour,
Store some salt and wait the hour.

When thinking of love,
Love is thinking for me
And the baker will come
And the baker I'll be

I'm depending on my labour,
The texture and the flavour

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

opening for department of corrections research analyst

grant duwe of the minnesota department of corrections emailed today with news of an opening for a research analyst. the department is doing some innovative research these days, so the job would be intellectually rewarding as well as remunerative.

Research Analyst Specialist - Minnesota Department of Corrections (St. Paul, MN)

Open Period: February 11, 2008-March 14, 2008

Position: Full-time permanent

Salary Range: $18.72-$27.46 hourly

Job Duties: This position will be responsible for evaluating correctional programs and conducting research on sex offenders, offender re-entry, and restorative justice.

Minimum Qualifications Required:
* Graduate degree (Master's or Ph.D.) in the social sciences (Criminology, Criminal Justice, Sociology or similar) with advanced training and/or professional experience in quantitative and qualitative research methods and multivariate statistics.


* Demonstrated ability to write research reports for a variety of audiences, as evidenced by the preparation of legislative reports, program evaluation reports, or publications in peer-reviewed academic journals.

* Demonstrated ability to use SPSS, SQL or Access in combining multiple data sets into one final database to conduct bivariate and multivariate statistical analyses.

* Human relations and strong written/oral communications skills essential to work with department managers and staff, research and corrections professionals in the community and other state agency staff.

* Experience managing multiple research projects.

Preferred Qualifications:
* Experience in the criminal justice system and field of corrections.

* Knowledge of advanced multivariate statistical techniques (e.g. logistic regression, poisson regression, Cox proportional hazards models) commonly used in corrections research.

* Demonstrated ability to design surveys and use appropriate statistical techniques to analyze and interpret survey data.

To apply: go to and get your resume in Resume Builder. Save it and submit it into the database. Search for Job posting number: 08CORR000034. The job posting can also be found here.

second chance day on the hill -- wednesday 2/13

second chance day on the hill is bringing people to the minnesota state capitol to talk about reintegration of those with criminal records. the core principle of the organizers is that "punishment should have a beginning and an end," which might have been taken straight from beccaria (1767).

i'm not speaking, but i'll try to sneak off to catch the presentations from 11-12. if locals are interested, here's the agenda:

11:00am Dan Cain, President, RS Eden, Introduction and Purpose
11:05am Bob Johnson, Anoka County Attorney, collateral sanctions and recommendations/public safety
11:10am Les Green, Professor, St. Cloud State, Landscape of Barriers/collateral sanctions/Racial Disparity
11:15am John Poupart, Executive Director, American Indian Policy Center, Diminished opportunities/Racial Disparity
11:20am Sue Watlov-Phillips, Executive Director, Elim Transitional Housing, Inc, Impact on Homelessness
11:25am Charles Jensen, Board of Directors, Barbara Schneider Foundation, Mental Illness/Justice System
11:30am Guy Gambill, Community Organizer, Veteran’s experience
11:35am Andre Corbett, Employment Support Consultant, Goodwill/Easter Seals MN, Personal story/challenges
11:40am Kissy Mason, Community Worker, Council on Crime and Justice, Personal story/challenges/generational impact
11:45am Julianne Ortman, MN State Senator Importance of fresh start/expungement/certificate
11:50am Michael Paymar, MN State Representative, Legislative progress and future
11:55am Dan Cain, President, RS Eden, Closing remarks/challenges remaining
12:00pm – 1:00pm Individual meetings with Legislators

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

which democrat took virginia?

inspired by the gender stories told in sociological images, i've been looking closely at photos accompanying stories about senator obama and senator clinton.

i couldn't help noticing how the huffington post placed this impressive image of one of the most phallic buildings in the world directly below its OBAMA WINS VIRGINIA headline.
i'm not sayin', i'm just sayin'.

update: it looks as though the washington monument image was removed as soon as the headline changed to OBAMA WINS VIRGINIA, DC ... MCCAIN WINS VIRGINIA. further commentary would be unseemly.

Monday, February 11, 2008

and I guess that was your accomplice in the wood chipper

sometimes department chairs just gaze in wide wonder at the issues awaiting them on any given morning. i arrived today, for example, to find that someone had broken into the li'l glass bookcase showcasing "new releases" by our faculty.

dang, i really like that case. it is positioned outside some molasses-slow elevators, so it draws great attention to the many fine books written by our faculty. the thieves only made off with about a third of the monographs in the case, so i couldn't resist trying to suss out why they selected some books and left others behind.

part of me worried that the miscreants were students upset with book costs, but i'm pretty sure it was just kids. unlike the university of chicago, the university of pennsylvania, or other urban campuses i've visited, the minnversity maintains a light security presence. i often encounter small groups of males in their mid-teens walking the halls on sundays, sometimes just before i discover smashed-in vending machines or other mischief. i'd long assumed that bitter faculty members had been smashing the candy machines, but now i'm starting to put two and two together.

at least the miscreants broke the lock, rather than smashing the more-costly-to-replace glass case itself. a few mysteries remain:

1. why did they bother breaking into a locked case to steal books when there was a free shelf just five feet away, loaded with books that had greater resale value? the poor saps could've taken a free copy of earl babbie's bestselling methods book, for example, which would have brought a far greater return on their efforts than the more esoteric titles in the case. i think that the locked case probably signaled market value, so we might have been better off leaving our titles on an unlocked shelf and locking up some old telephone directories and 1974 software manuals instead.

2. how did they decide which books to steal? i was outraged (outraged, i tell you!) that they literally reached right past my book but stole both of hartmann's titles. the nerve! didn't they read the jackets? c'mon, which of us is out there advocating for the rights of convicted felons? i was getting pretty worked up about this until my research assistant reassured me that, of course, the thieves must have already purchased several copies of locked out: felon disenfranchisement and american democracy. aside from their anti-uggen bias, they didn't seem to choose hardcover over paperback, or qualitative over quantitative, or brand new over slightly older, or attractive cover art over less-attractive cover art. why didn't they just grab 'em all? my working theory involves a fargo-like dispute among the co-conspirators, so i wouldn't be surprised to discover, say, a severed human foot beneath our industrial paper shredder.

3. the replacement costs will be high for the department, but what is the street value of a handful of sociology books? wouldn't they have been better off breaking into the candy machines again?

4. it looks like i've got a decision to make. should we adopt the time-tested but lame method of stapling book jackets to a department bulletin board? or, should we stick to our guns, buy some new books, and bring in a serious security force?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

la times homicide report

the los angeles times maintains a homicide report blog with the names, faces, and brief stories of each of the area's murder victims. the daily entries quickly orient readers to the super-concentration of homicide along age, race, class, and gender lines. the grim catalog is powerfully affecting, even for those familiar with the bivariate correlates of violent victimization. we might already know that young african american and latino men from poor neighborhoods are disproportionately victimized, but we might better appreciate the force of such patterns after reading the individual stories arrayed on page after page of cases.

just so there's no confusion

r stevens tries to suss out the differences between norway and sweden in the figure below. my family is both norwegian and swedish -- norsk og svensk -- though i've yet to visit either country. that said, i understand the original uggen farm was in norway and i typically self-identify as a norwegian-american. i won't quibble with the venn diagram, except i'd likely assign wasa bread to the swedish side of the figure and mors flatbrod to the norwegian side. perhaps somebody will be inspired to create a similar diagram distinguishing st. paul and minneapolis -- putting university avenue and the mighty mississippi smack dab in the middle. such a map might come in real handy during orientation week for our new faculty and grad students.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

what time is it!?

i wouldn't be a good minnesotan of a certain age if i didn't spread the word that jimmy jam harris and terry lewis will perform once again with the time at tomorrow's grammy awards.

this eighties band isn't reuniting for the money, as the philanthropic mr. harris and mr. lewis have since become the greatest record producers of all time. mr. harris also happens to be the new chairman of the national academy of recording arts and sciences, so i'm sure he'll get as much time as he needs for the band's performance with rihanna.

Friday, February 08, 2008

lyrics that sound good

via stereogum and nme, beck hansen now informs us that lyrics such as devil's haircut and new pollution were nonsensical placeholders, or "scratch" vocals he'd intended to replace at some point.

do not believe this for a second. mr. hansen is just playin' with the rock critigensia and his "mouthwash jukebox gasoline" remains a fine turn of phrase.

beck knows that an evocative lyric must also sound good when sung. that's why chuck berry drives a coffee-colored cadillac, the b-b-bird's the word for the trashmen, steve miller speaks of the pompatus of love, warren zevon repeats boom-boom mancini's fightin' bobby chacon eight times, the peppers sing give it away sixty-nine times, prince wears a raspberry beret, ben lee was backstage in pomona and so forth. in my view, songwriting and poetry has as much to do with sound and cadence as with imagery and meaning.

that said, some lines are sacred. truth be told, i'd be completely destroyed if jeff beck were to reveal that constipated duck was just a nonsense title -- and not a heartfelt ode to actual bowel-obstructed waterfowl.

duel in the sun

i got some email from a running site tonight, hyping the new spirit of the marathon movie. as soon as the trailer showed dick beardsley, i clicked off to youtube to see whether anyone had posted his famed '82 boston finish with the great alberto salazar. here 'tis:

dang, i love youtube. see, it looks like they're jogging, but they ran 26 miles in 2:08. you can calibrate the speed by watching the motorcycles. they finished at about a 4:50 pace, running step-for-step for the last 10 miles. mr. salazar takes the lead on commonwealth avenue, but the minnesota farm boy came back to battle the world record-holder at about 6:45 of the clip. how did either of them make a move so late in the race, after pretty much sprinting for two hours? it almost hurts to watch.

i believe that mr. beardsley still holds the course record for grandma's marathon and that he's still ranked with the all-time fastest american marathoners. for his part, mr. salazar helped pace lance armstrong in the bicyclist's first marathon in 2006 and is coaching some young runners to great heights. but nobody runs 'em like this anymore.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

could we take the elevator back down?

i learned today of climb for the cure, a stair-climbing benefit for the cystic fibrosis foundation. i might be able to climb up the 1,280 stairs of minneapolis' IDS center (at left), but my quads would be screaming on the descent. still, it looks like good fun for a good cause:

Join us for our 27th year of "going vertical" to defeat cystic fibrosis, an inherited chronic disease affecting the lungs and digestive system of about 30,000 children and adults in the U.S. Each participant with at least $50 in pledges will have a fun morning as they climb all 50 flights (1,280 steps) of the IDS Center, enjoying a lively celebration at the top with food and fun. IDS Center, 80 S. Eighth St., Mpls. 651-631-3290.

according the strib, you can register on saturday if you pony up the fifty bucks. there are myriad stair-climbing events around the world, in places such as the empire state building (1,576 stairs), CN tower (1,776 stairs), and the sears tower (2,109). the big daddy of them all appears to be the sächsischer mt. everest treppenmarathon at 39,700 steps. hmm. perhaps i should see whether i survive a climb up the 14-stories of my social science tower before getting that ambitious.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

co-authored dissertations as (oxy)moronic

as a department chair in a university that has been very good to me, i hesitate to publicly question proposals even when i might disapprove of them for intellectual or personal reasons.

that said, a bad idea came across my desk this week that riled me up so much that i'm sorely in need of a reality check. you see, i recently received an exploratory sort of memo regarding co-authored ph.d. dissertations. has anyone ever heard of a co-authored dissertation in sociology or criminology? could anyone envision a scenario in which they would encourage their students to co-author their own dissertations? in which they would hire someone who co-authored a dissertation?

let's see... i suppose that if i wanted to specialize in, say, genetics and crime, that i might coauthor some work with a geneticist. as we wrote a few papers together, however, i'd like to think i'd pick up enough knowledge of genetics to be able to handle chapter 3 of my dissertation (typically, data, measures, and methods) on my own. if not, i probably wouldn't claim any real expertise in the area of genetics and crime and, instead, i'd write a dissertation on a topic that i knew better than anybody on the planet (i dunno, maybe water imagery in the music of the talking heads, 1977-1985).

the proposal even included language detailing how both students would be credited as co-first-authors. oh yeah, that'll allay the concerns of a recruitment committee. in my experience, a big fat dissertation is the one shining work that students can truly claim as their own. those working with me know that they are responsible for the ideas and execution of their own dissertations, but they also know that they own the darn things -- and that they can write solo articles from them that will form the foundation of a their tenure cases down the road.

as a teacher, there is nothing so teary-eyed beautiful as watching your students take off and run with their own diss ideas, develop a deep expertise, and put together a kick-butt job talk and a great book or top-journal-worthy set of papers. in short, a dissertation marks the passage from student to independent scholar. a dissertation is not co-authored.

urban institute live audio webcast on children with incarcerated mothers

via the urban institute's justice policy center:

Broken Bonds: Understanding and Addressing the Needs of Children with Incarcerated Mothers
Thursday, February 14
9 am ET / 8 am CT / 7 am MT / 6 am PT
Program length: 1.5 hours

Register Now
As the population of incarcerated women grows, so does the number of children whose mothers are absent from their lives. Current estimates indicate that on any given day, more than 150,000 children have a mother in prison, yet far too little is known about these children and their needs and experiences. What are their home environments like before, during, and after incarceration? If they are in foster care, when did they enter the system, and what are their prospects for family stability? What are the barriers to healthy mother-child relationships? What emotional and behavioral challenges do these children face? What can charitable organizations, service providers, and policymakers do to address those challenges?

With these questions in mind, this panel seeks to cast a bright light on this often invisible population of children. The discussion will illustrate the scope of the problem; explore the challenges these children will likely encounter as they negotiate new living arrangements, family relationships, and financial circumstances; and highlight programs and policies that hold promise for better serving this vulnerable population.

Sandra Barnhill, executive director and CEO, Foreverfamily
Amy Dworsky, senior researcher, Chapin Hall Center for Children at the University of Chicago
Thomasina Hiers, director of programs and services, Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services
Nancy La Vigne, senior research associate, Justice Policy Center at the Urban Institute
Moderator: Laura Sullivan, correspondent, National Public Radio

Register for the Webcast Today!
The audio recording of the webcast will be available online at by February 19.
The webcast is free. To join the webcast, you need a computer with a high-speed Internet connection. The audio for the webcast is available over the Internet only (no telephone connections).

Families Left Behind: The Hidden Costs of Incarceration and Reentry (pdf)
Prisoners Once Removed: The Impact of Incarceration and Reentry on Children, Families, and Communities
Audio recording - Racial Disparity in the Child Welfare System


i was heartened to see neil young, musician and self-professed train nerd, make today's business page. for years, mr. young has been working up some characteristically boundary-smashing hi-tech/lo-tech wireless controllers for his son ben. as it turns out, the technology may help pull the ol' lionel train company out of bankruptcy. or maybe not. the story of mr. young and his family is well-documented (part 1 and 2). according to press reports,

The system allows up to 99 trains on nine separate tracks to be run simultaneously by wireless remote control. Young's company developed the Trainmaster technology. The 62-year-old rock musician is highly regarded in the model train industry for his design and technology abilities.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

closed-circuit to my advisees

here's an all-too-revealing clip from amy conner, contexts managing editor. i'm not familiar with mitchell and webb, but they must've done some time as my graduate advisees. you want some clear direction on that research prospectus or thesis proposal?

Monday, February 04, 2008

nij hosting online prison rape discussion

via nij: the national institute of justice is hosting an online discussion forum this week on research bearing on the prison rape elimination act. even basic questions about the prevalence of prison sexual assault are fiercely contested, so i'd expect a lively discussion.

Sexual Victimization in Prisons: Moving Toward Elimination

February 7, 2008: 2pm–4pm ESTFree online event. Registration required.
One of every 22 men and women sentenced to imprisonment in the United States reported that they were assaulted sexually while incarcerated.

Sexual victimization in prisons is the issue, elimination is the goal. Join a group of experts to discuss the state of Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) research—what data is available and what’s yet to come. The experts will examine ways to move from better understanding to reliable prevention and eventual elimination.
View a detailed description of the event and register today.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

least appropriate halftime bands

with tom petty performing at halftime, perhaps the waiting or even the losers will inspire the underdog giants (and free fallin' the patriots). i guess i prefer good ol' unpretentious tom petty to bruce springsteen or the eagles. curious about the halftime performers over the years, i found the list below at rolling stone.

i always thought that the ramones or the who would do well in such a venue, but their time is past. which bombastic arena-friendly performers might be next in line?

2009. red hot chili peppers (way overdue)
2010. snoop dogg (a great football mind, from all reports)
2011. the white stripes (jack white would own the crowd)
2012. the hives and sahara hotnights (honorary americans)
2013. tribute to surf guitar featuring dick dale, the ventures, the late link wray, duane eddy, knuckel drager, joe satriani, los straitjackets, and the mermen.

ok, i know that the last ones just ain't gonna happen, but i'd sure love to hear misirlou in a super bowl setting. here is the full list of past performers:

I. Universities of Arizona and Michigan Bands.
II. Grambling University.
III. Florida A&M University Band.
IV. Carol Channing.
V. Florida A&M Band.
VI. Ella Fitzgerald, Carol Channing, Al Hirt and U.S. Marine Corps Drill Team.
VII. University of Michigan Band and Woody Herman.
VIII. University of Texas Band.
IX. Mercer Ellington and Grambling University Bands.
X. America’s Bicentennial featuring Up with People.
XI. Los Angeles All-City Band.
XII. Tyler Apache Belles, Pete Fountain and Al Hirt.
XIII. Ken Hamilton and Caribbean bands.
XIV. Up with People.
XV. Southern University Band and Helen O'Connell.
XVI. Up with People.
XVII. Los Angeles Drill Team.
XVIII. Florida and Florida State Bands.
XIX. Tops in Blue (Air Force).
XX. Up with People.
XXI. Southern California High School Drill Teams.
XXII. 88 grand pianos, the Rockettes and Chubby Checker.
XXIII. Elvis Presto.
XXIV. Pete Fountain, Doug Kershaw & Irma Thomas.
XXV. New Kids on the Block.
XXVI. Gloria Estefan, Brian Boitano and Dorothy Hamill.
XXVII. Michael Jackson and 3,500 local children. .
XXVIII. Clint Black, Tanya Tucker, Travis Tritt, the Judds.
XXIX. Tony Bennett, Patti LaBelle, Arturo Sandoval, Miami Sound Machine.
XXX. Diana Ross.
XXXI. Blues Brothers, James Brown, and ZZ Top.
XXXII. Boyz II Men, Smokey Robinson, Queen Latifah, Martha Reeves and The Temptations.
XXXIII. Stevie Wonder, Gloria Estefan, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Savion Glover.
XXXIV. Phil Collins, Christina Aguilera, Enrique Iglesias, Toni Braxton and an 80-person choir.
XXXV. Aerosmith, *N’SYNC, Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige and Nelly.
XXXVII. Shania Twain, No Doubt and Sting.
XXXVIII. Janet Jackson, Kid Rock, P. Diddy, Nelly and Justin Timberlake.
XXXIX. Paul McCartney.
XL. The Rolling Stones.
XLI. Prince.
XLII. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

status offenses

teaching about status offenses in my delinquency class this week, i showed students results of the self-report survey they took on the first day of class. whenever i give such a survey, students always want clarification about whether i'm asking about their current behavior or their behavior before they turned 18.

it always struck me as strange that we criminalize age-inappropriateness. at twelve, i remember thinking that age-graded laws were a complete sham. i understood why cigarettes, pornography, booze, and gambling might be bad for me, of course, but i couldn't get my head around the idea that they'd suddenly be rendered harmless once i turned 16 or 18 or 19 or 21.*

if you are looking for a 40-second illustration of the contradictions of age-grading, check out this old mojo nixon public service announcement. in the late eighties, mr. nixon appeared in a fine series of revolutionary feel-good p.s.a.s for mtv, directed by ted demme and mark pellington. they are far less profane than mr. nixon's recordings or his radio shows, so perhaps better suited for classroom use. the libertarian poli-sci major from ohio u now deejays for sirius radio, as the loon in the afternoon, with a saturday night political show titled lyin' ***ers.

* when i graduated high school, the drinking age was 19 in minnesota, 21 in illinois, but only 18 in wisconsin. this differential was a major topic of conversation during my freshman year in madison.

Friday, February 01, 2008

so i got that goin' for me, which is nice

BBC News reports on a new Social Science and Medicine article, showing that rates of depression peak in mid-life, around age 44.

dag... and i figured everything would be seashells and balloons for the next couple years.