Chris Uggen's Blog: July 2008

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

welcome to paradise

if you've ever wanted to profess sociology at a wicked-cool public research university in the geographical center of the known universe*, you might consider a position at minnesota. we've just been approved for an open-area junior search (chaired by david knoke) and an open-rank search in law/crime/deviance (chaired by ross macmillan). this year, we're welcoming David Pellow, Lisa Sun-Hee Park, Eric Grodsky, and Cawo Abdi to our faculty. next year, maybe you. application details are at bloggers welcome.

*g'head -- prove me wrong.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

library luminaries

there's a sweet local story on eyeteeth about a kid, a bike, and some security guards with an exceptionally well-developed sense of professionalism.

beermakers celebrate such righteous dude kindnesses as worthy of a genuine brew, but i just can't imagine dropping a case of MGD on the hennepin county central library. if you like the story, though, i'd bet the hardworking security crew would appreciate a bag of mel-o-glaze apple fritters.

Monday, July 28, 2008

good news/bad news from the minneapolis police department

I. the good news:

a. the city of minneapolis honors 39 officers today for outstanding valor in the line of duty.

b. official reports of violent crime continue to drop -- about 14 percent from january-june 2008 in comparison to january-june, 2007. this follows a drop of similar magnitude between 2006 and 2007. the numbers look (surprisingly) good for just about every part I crime.

II. the bad news:

city attorneys are advising that the city pay $2 million to settle a lawsuit by five african american police officers alleging discriminatory treatment. such news is disturbing in both its costs to taxpayers and its meaning for the department and the city. i don't have any inside information about the case, but cities are rarely eager to settle on numbers this large without some evidentiary basis for the allegations. as of friday, the city council had yet to approve the settlement.

i've got some excellent former students on the minneapolis police force, so i'd like to think they've played some part in the good news reported above -- and, of course, that they bear no responsibility for the bad news.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

cry for slug

i've been haunted all day by a bizarre combination of iggy's cry for love and atmosphere's you playing in my head. i'm hurtin' for mash-up or cover version, since i'd bet slug could do a fine ig for the post-pepsi generation. still, i know the reality would never match the ghost song.

it sounds great, in principle, for a semi-relevant band to polish up an ol' nugget. unfortunately, it almost always comes off as lame, soggy, and pathetic -- like counting crows covering joni mitchell. so, unless i'm in a basement or a small-town bar, i'm usually disappointed with cover songs. i figgered the femmes were ripe for updating, for example,but gnarls' gone daddy gone was cold and edgeless. james hetfield did right by waylon's outlaw bit, but the original's menace and world-weariness sounded hypothetical rather than experienced.

in short, it is probably best to just keep the ghosts in one's head and hum along to those hypothetical covers. here's today's soundtrack:

cry for love till all the plates are broken,
cry for love until my eyes are soakin',
but you don't know, you don't know, you don't know, you don't know --you.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

$19,600,000 -- and probably well-spent

just about every prison has a hole, a box, or a seg unit. these are thought to deter inmates from disruptive behavior, incapacitate those dangerous to themselves or others, and, sometimes, to protect inmates who might be especially vulnerable. if a prison is a microcosm of society, the seg unit is therefore the prison's prison.

minnesota's ancient correctional facility in stillwater just built a new $19,600,000 segregation unit to house the institution's most disruptive residents. such costs strike those on the left as an outrageous expenditure in dehumanization, while striking those on the right as an outrageous expenditure in mollycoddling. having visited this facility and other century-old units on several occasions, however, i agree with prison administration on the need for such a facility. if you think the new seg unit is dehumanizing, you should've seen the old one -- violent, frighteningly loud, with fires, floods, and flying feces a constant threat to staff and inmates.

during visits, i thought it unimaginable that people could spend any length of time in such conditions and still be expected to function as productive citizens upon their release. one hopes that the colder but safer space in the new unit may ultimately play some role in reentry and reintegration. a kare-11 report (with a bit of video from the old seg unit) quotes stillwater's warden on this point:

"It wasn't designed for being more comfortable, but designed as being more humane," Warden John King explained. "That's an important thing, to treat offenders humanely because they're going to be back on the streets and in our communities," he added.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

look for me in the right lane, driving slowly

i've pretty much stayed out of trouble for the past couple decades, but find myself on a mild form of probation for the next year. the department of public safety recently sent a letter warning me that i've had three violations within the past 12 months: for serious speed in november, illegal change of course in january, and serious speed again in may. since another ticket may result in the loss of my license, i'm now driving very cautiously.

i really don't want to lose my driving privileges, so a letter such as this is a serious deterrent. i try to set a decent example for my kids, but have tended to drive too recklessly when commuting alone. i'm not sure why my driving record deteriorated so badly in the past year, but the two (serious) speeding tickets were both obtained on the way to Big Chair Meetings at work. also, i've been driving a black lincoln with ICUDV8 plates (get it? these were my favorite christmas gift of 2007), so i may be attracting a bit more attention from law enforcement. on the other hand, my old jeep was probably incapable of serious speed, so the tickets likely reflect a negative change in my driving behavior.

either way, i'm sufficiently deterred and doing my best to obey all traffic laws -- and getting better mileage to boot.

Monday, July 21, 2008

david carr and the ugly truth

jay wrote this morning, regarding david carr's piece in sunday's times magazine. i don't think our paths ever crossed, though we certainly ran in the same minneapolis music/journalism circles. mr. carr, now a respected writer with a regular times column, offers a disturbingly honest first-person account of his addiction and criminal history. his book, the night of the gun, will be released this august. if the times excerpt is representative, the memoir will offer an unflinching look at some ugly truths. an excerpt:

If I said I was a fat thug who beat up women and sold bad coke, would you like my story? What if instead I wrote that I was a recovered addict who obtained sole custody of my twin girls, got us off welfare and raised them by myself, even though I had a little touch of cancer? Now we’re talking. Both are equally true, but as a member of a self-interpreting species, one that fights to keep disharmony at a remove, I’m inclined to mention my tenderhearted attentions as a single parent before I get around to the fact that I hit their mother when we were together. We tell ourselves that we lie to protect others, but the self usually comes out looking damn good in the process.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

snoreview no more!

well, here's some news that will definitely bring me cred among urban colleagues and big city buddies on the nation's crinkly edges. those hipsters at family circle just ranked my hometown among the top ten towns for families. dang. you know you've got it made when your town makes the circle.

shoreview joins such tony burgs as south burlington, oro valley, brunswick, wheeling, rocklin, webster groves, broken arrow, royal palm beach, and, of course, ankeny ("this river don't go to ankeny, boys"), iowa. geez, i hope angelina and brad don't read the circle. the farmer's market and running trails will soon be overrun with paparazzi.

my sense is that the top ten towns may have been the only communities yet to be identified on one of those money magazine "best places to --" lists. here's the methodology, according to the unbiased observers at the shoreview press.

Family Circle chose the cities with the help of OnBoard, a New York City research firm that provides real estate and demographic data. The magazine assembled a list of 1,850 places with populations of between 15,000 and 150,000 and average incomes of around $65,000.From that, 800 localities were selected based on their family-friendliness, using criteria including cost of living, number and type of jobs and quality of schools. The magazine also looked for "green" communities with good environmental policies and a high percentage of residents who recycle.

hmm. the honor doesn't seem quite so prestigious now that i know the selection criteria. still, shoreview has been a wonderful place for my family. like me, the circle was most impressed with the water:

Shoreview is a family-friendly town where housing is affordable, crime is low, and student test scores are way above average. But what residents rave about is the water -- 1,400 acres of wetlands, 11 lakes, and a community center with an indoor water park (hottest attraction: the Shark Attack waterslide). Families who live on the shorefront, like the Maseks, landscape with eco-friendly coconut fiber logs, switch grass, and flowers to prevent erosion.

hey, i rave about the water too -- especially when its not frozen.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

prison reentry in the boston review

bruce western offers a fine piece in the new boston review -- a characteristically thoughtful analysis of mass incarceration, nicely presented for non-experts. bruce argues that the failure of the great experiment in mass incarceration is rooted in three fallacies of the tough-on-crime perspective:

1. the fallacy of us and them.
2. the fallacy of personal defect.
3. the myth of the free market.

the argument, and the article, is well worth a read, as are the review's other contributions: no further harm by mary katzenstein and mary lyndon shanley, and guarded hope by robert perkinson.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

a sousa-cal musical

como park is beautiful in the summer, so i really enjoyed seeing esperanza's latest production at como's grand lakeside pavillion.

teddy and alice tells the story of theodore roosevelt and his "wild" daughter alice roosevelt langworth. the play taught me much about young ms. roosevelt and about what passed for wild behavior for women of the period -- showing one's ankles, smoking in public, plunging clothed into swimming pools, dating senators, that sort of thing.

the show might've taken a few historical liberties (who knew samuel gompers and j.p. morgan were such pals?), but it was fun to see fictionalized versions of henry cabot lodge, a scene-stealing william howard taft, and, of course, young franklin and eleanor. at first i had trouble getting my head around john philip sousa doing musical theater, but it proved way more fitting than, say, TR singing sondheim. plus, the orchestra was terrific.

the actors playing TR and Alice were quite good, though my favorite parts featured esperanza -- as a dancing debutante doing the "leg o' mutton" -- and as protester at the 1904 republican convention. i'm not sure how much history she's learning from the experience, but she did know that women such as alice and her protester were still disenfranchised in 1904.

alice roosevelt seems to have been a great wit and an intriguing historical figure. a few of the quotes attributed to her:

· He [Calvin Coolidge] looks as though he's been weaned on a pickle.
· I have a simple philosophy. Fill what's empty. Empty what's full. And scratch where it itches.
· I've always believed in the adage that the secret of eternal youth is arrested development.
· If you haven't got anything good to say about anyone come and sit by me.
· My father always wanted to be the corpse at every funeral, the bride at every wedding and the baby at every christening.
· The truckman, the trashman and the policeman on the block may call me Alice but you [Joseph McCarthy] may not.

Friday, July 11, 2008

the china context(s)

[warning: this post started as a personal reflection, but pretty much ended up as an ad.]

the new contexts came today, bringing excitement (cool!), fear (oh no - that picture's too dark!), and the wonder of it all (can you believe we made it to press?) to the editorial team. mostly there's a sense of gratitude for all the hard work people did in putting the pieces together. every issue has its birth pains, of course, but i'm liking this one a lot.

we've got michael burawoy and ruth milkman engaging documentarian michael apted, sports provocateur dave zirin, a wicked-good review of full frontal feminism by sharon hays and jess butler, todd gitlin on the back page, intriguing discoveries, a revealing photo essay, and strong features on social networks, the n-word, heatwaves, sex, and china. we're running several china-themed pieces this summer -- everything from rights activism, to population policy, to chinese sociologists and sexologists, to kitschy trinkets representing the great helmsman. we can't put it all online but we put up enough free stuff, we hope, to merit a trip to (a/k/a jonny's house). our indefatigable grad board also posts some nice extended content to complement some of the print features, such as some (nsfw?) videos for the n-word story on latino rappers.

doug (especially) and i work pretty hard on the magazine, but the two haggard dudes pictured on page 3 are only responsible for a tiny fraction of the total work. contexts runs on the good will and good work of dozens of smart people -- authors, of course, but also board members and reviewers, asa and press folks, photographers, designers, section editors, a fine managing editor, undergrad assistants, and, of course, our (indefatigable) grad student board. and, the whole thing runs on an annual budget that's roughly equivalent to the cost of a good german sedan.

hmmm. this is starting to read like a future from the editors column. but not for the summer issue -- this time we wrote about good writing.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

loan forgiveness for faculty in public universities?

as a chair, i'm often selling my department to donors, citizens, legislators, and (most importantly) to faculty and student recruits. as a chair in a public university, i'm often selling the whole idea of public education as a value choice, since those (mean ol' cake-eating) chairs at private universities can often outgun me on material issues.

here's some news that, if true, might strengthen my material case.

i was recently forwarded this article from on the college cost reduction and access act of 2007, which links to a related hofstra law review piece. here's my uninformed interpretation: after oct. 1, 2007, a faculty member who makes regular student loan payments and teaches in a public school for ten years will be eligible to have the remaining balance on these loans forgiven. i'm sure there are loads of exceptions and qualifications and heretofores and whereupons. nevertheless, the program might merit a li'l further investigation for debt-burdened new faculty in public schools.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

senior evaluator positions open in ramsey county

one of my all-time favorite (non-professor) jobs involved evaluating social services programs in wisconsin. it was meaningful work, requiring the thoughtful application of good social science research skills -- design, analysis, communication, and even a bit of abstraction and generalization.

if you share these interests and have developed some of these aptitudes, you might want to consider the following job opportunities in beautiful st. paul, minnesota:

The Ramsey County Human Services Dept currently has two Senior Program Evaluator positions open. One will specialize in an MFIP-related area, the other in Children and Family Services. Apply at through 7/14/08.

Job Title: Senior Program Evaluator (0498) (Community Human Services)
Closing Date/Time: Mon. 07/14/08 11:59 PM Central Time
Salary: $25.05 - $37.14 hourly or $52,109.69 - $77,256.99 annually
Job Type: Full Time
Location: (RCGC EAST) St Paul, Minnesota
Education: Bachelor’s degree in social or behavioral science or related field, plus 12 graduate credits in research and statistical methods. (No substitution for Bachelor’s Degree.)
Experience: Six years of program evaluation experience in a human service setting, public health setting, health care setting or equivalent.

are you an oslo coffee addict?

this morning's today show featured a few shots of sis and jd's oslo coffee in brooklyn. in recent years, oslo also popped up in john mayer's waiting on the world to change, an indie film or two, the times, and gourmet magazine. i dunno what accounts for the williamsburg shop's iconic status, but it might have something to do with good art, superb peoplewatching, and the absence of wi-fi (according to the proprietors, the latter threatened to disrupt the shop's big-table sociability vibe). oh, almost forgot -- the coffee's strong n' good too.

Friday, July 04, 2008


i'm very late on a book chapter, so i'm unplugging the phones, email, web and human connections until i can finish it sunday night. i was better with research deadlines before becoming chair/editor, but my writing has taken a back seat to my administrative roles the past few years. while i hate to be out of touch on department and contexts business, i'm hoping they'll survive the rest of the weekend. i'm just feeling truly awful about being the sole bottleneck on this and other projects. so, i'm going offline until i can put this thing out of its misery.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

new american sociological association study on ph.d.s at mid-career

inside higher ed reports on a new american sociological association study of people who received doctorates in sociology in 1996-1997. some of the results might be reassuring to parents pursuing tenure:

For mothers who remained in the longitudinal survey since it began in 1998, parenthood did not have negative effects on their career trajectories in terms of tenure or productivity when compared to fathers, childless women and childless men.

here's a quick chart on faculty ranks by family status, adapted from table 1 of the study and the inside higher ed article.