Chris Uggen's Blog: August 2008

Saturday, August 30, 2008

olde thieving cant for pupil-mongers, word-peckers, and knaves in grain

criminologists learn the secret argot of the underworld to enhance our understanding of the people and events we study. poets learn such street jargon because its imagery is often colorfully evocative and metaphorical, yet subtle or sly enough to facilitate secret communication.

boing directs us to a fine 1736 dictionary of thieving cant at in contrast to compilations by criminologists such as edwin sutherland, only about half the entries i read bore directly on the practice of crime. i should caution that many of the entries are offensive -- most notably to women, but also to men, preachers, lawyers, and the irish and roma people. a few of the less-offensive entries:

ADAM TILER, the Comerade of a Pick pocket, who receives stollen Goods or Money, and scours off with them, Tip the coal to Adam Tiler; i.e. give the Money, Watch, &c. to a running Companion, that the Pick Pocket may have nothing found upon him, when he is apprehended.

ARCH-ROGUE, the Dimber-Damber Uprightman or Chief of a Gang; as Arch-Dell, or Arch-Doxy signifies the same Degree in Rank among the Female Canters and Gypsies.

ARK-RUFFIANS, Rogues, who in Conjunction with Watermen, &c. rob and sometimes murder on the Water; by picking a Quarrel with the Passenger and then plundering, stripping and throwing him or her over board, &c.

To BLOT the Skrip, and jark it, i.e. to stand engaged, or be bound for any Body.
It is all BOB, i.e. All is Safe.


COSTARD, the Head. I'll give ye a Knock on the Costard; I'll hit ye a Blow on the Pate.

A HIGHTE-TITY, a Romp or rude Girl.

KNAVE in Grain, one of the First Rate.

MOVEABLES, Rings, Watches, Swords, and such Toys of Value.

PUPIL Mongers, Tutors at the Universities.

SCHOOL of Venus, a Bawdy-house.

SNUDGE, one that lurks under a Bed, to watch an Opportunity to rob the House.

SUCK, Wine or strong Drink. This is rum Suck; It is excellent Tipple. We'll go and Suck our Faces; but if they toute us, we'll take Rattle, and brush; Let's go to drink and be merry; but if we be smelt by the People of the House, we must scowre off. He loves to Suck his Face; He delights in Drinking.

SOUL-Driver, a Parson.

STROWLING-Morts, who, pretending to be Widows, often travel the Countries, making Laces upon Yews, Beggar's-tape, &c. Are light-finger'd, subtle, hypocritical, cruel, and often dangerous to meet, especially when a Ruffler is with them.

SWIG-Men, carrying small Haberdashery-Wares about, pretending to sell them, to colour their Roguery. Fellows crying Old Shoes, Boots, or brooms; and thos pretending to buy Old Suits, Hats or Cloaks, are also called Swig-Men, and oftentimes, if an Opportunity offers, make all Fish that comes to Net.

THUMMIKINS, a Punishment (in Scotland) by hard squeezing or pressing of the Thumbs, to extort Confession, which stretches them prodigiously, and is very painful. In Camps, and on Board of Ships, lighted Matches are clapt between the Fingers to the same Intent.

WHIRLEGIGS, Testicles.

To YAM, to eat heartily, to stuff lustily.

ZNEES, Frost, or Frozen; Zneesy weather; Frosty Weather.

Friday, August 29, 2008

buckle your chinstraps

since this is the lad's last year of high school, i'm seeing all events, scoring all merch, saving all clippings, and savoring all moments. i've missed too much over the years, and time and tide wait for no dad. the football season starts in a couple hours, so i'll indulge in a quick personal post (while keeping pubcrim confined to professional matters).

i can tell that tor is trying to suss out what role sports will play in his post-high school life. if he attends a big division-I school, such as the minnversity, his football career will likely be over. if he opts for a smaller school, he'll have strong incentives to keep playing. i've got opinions on such matters, of course, but being a professor gives me surprisingly little expert knowledge. no matter how much i know about a particular university or the student-athlete role at that university, the young man ultimately makes his own choices.

tor and linemate billy (above) got some rare o-line publicity in the strib's football preview this week, as well as that of the pi press. last year, tor and billy were the new kids on a big, veteran line -- who earned their moniker as the mounds view moving company. now they're the veteran tackles, bookending guards and centers with less experience. i can't really judge tor's individual play, since the team's trapping, pulling, n' misdirecting wing-t offense remains a mystery to me. the most reliable performance indicators are collective -- whether the team is getting a good push and moving the ball. of course, if your lad plays on the line you rarely even look at the ball.

i'd always been skeptical about high school athletics, due in part to my personal sports history (i.e., "he's small and slow, but makes up for it with a bad attitude"*) and my reading of the literature on sports and delinquency. but lately i've seen tor's rugby, wrestling, and football in a more positive light -- as supervised collective projects with age-graded responsibilities that reward discipline and planfulness. that doesn't mean i don't worry about potential injuries or the opportunity costs of participation, but as long as he's enjoying the games, i'm enjoying the games.

*i didn't play much football beyond junior high, but one story comes to mind. coming off the practice field one night, i got into a beef with a real tough player. when he shoved me and threw down his helmet to fight, i kept mine on my head and buckled the chinstrap. i said i was ready to fight, but there's no way i'm taking off this helmet. he pawed at it a bit, but soon lost interest. if he hadn't cooled down, i'd still be wearing that helmet.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

closed circuit to minnesota soc grads

fabio rojas is looking for a few good minnesota sociology grad students to help with his study of street demonstrators at next week's republican national convention in st. paul.

professor rojas is covered for 9/1, but needs people for 9/2 and will pay $15 per hour. it ain't much money, but it could be a great short-term research opportunity for those interested in politics or movements.

and check out his reservoir sociologist team in denver. he is an accomplished sociologist and rising academic star, to be sure, but nobody rocks a fanny pack like dr. fabio rojas.

interested students can contact professor rojas directly.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

new from bjs: parents in prison and their minor children

just released from the bureau of justice statistics:

Parents in Prison and Their Minor Children
Presents data from the 2004 Survey of Inmates in State and Federal Correctional Facilities about inmates who were parents and their minor children. This report compares estimates of the number of incarcerated parents and their children under the age of 18, by gender, age, race, and Hispanic origin in state and federal prisons in 1991, 1997, 1999, 2004, and 2007. It presents the total number of children who were minors at some time during their parent’s incarceration. The report describes selected background characteristics of parents in prisons, including marital status, citizenship, education, offense type, criminal history, employment, prior experiences of homelessness, drug and alcohol involvement, mental health, and physical and sexual abuse. It provides family background of inmate parents including household makeup, public assistance received by household, drug and alcohol use, and incarceration of family members. It includes information on the children’s daily care, financial support, current caregivers, and frequency and type of contact with incarcerated parents.

  • The nation’s prisons held approximately 744,200 fathers and 65,600 mothers at midyear 2007.
  • Parents held in the nation’s prisons—52% of state inmates and 63% of federal inmates—reported having an estimated 1,706,600 minor children, accounting for 2.3% of the U.S. resident population under age 18.
  • Growth in the number of parents held in state and federal prisons was outpaced by the growth in the nation’s prison population between 1991 and midyear 2007.

contexts roundtable on the social significance of barack obama

contexts magazine is running an online roundtable on the social significance of barack obama, featuring gianpaolo baiocchi, eduardo bonilla-silva, joe feagin, enid logan, jeff manza, and josh pacewicz. as you might guess, they don't exactly speak with one voice on this issue.

to get the ball rolling, each author submitted a short and provocative statement on this question, then co-editor doug hartmann kicked off a moderated discussion. we're hoping the site will generate some lively commentary, some of which will run in the exchange section of an upcoming print issue. we're also hoping that a few folks teaching sociology this fall might use the material or link to it from their course pages.

if this "works" -- in terms of readership and participation -- we'll likely do more online exchanges. i love editing a quarterly print publication, but there's so much more we can do online. if you like the idea, you might stop on by to read or comment.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

public education as a value choice

As my college searches for a new dean, I'm eager to hear what the term "public" (and "research" and "university") means to each of the candidates. Does it connote openness, universality, and community? Or, does it just mean that we're broke?

As a department chair, I'm privy to reams of data documenting the declining proportion of my college's revenues coming from state coffers. Aside from the material privatization of flagship public research universities, the great publics seem to be privatizing in a cultural sense as well. For example, are the faculty, students, and staff now returning to public school campuses even dimly aware of the land-grant ideals of the Morrill Act? While we might be sympathetic to its mission -- to "promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions of life" -- most of us made the choice to work or study at public universities because these organizations offered us the best deal on the market.

There's nothing wrong with that, of course -- I'm glad that publics such as the University of Minnesota can still compete and win on the open market. But a storm is threat'ning, both in terms of resources and in terms of meaning. In my view, if public research universities are to prosper, our academic leaders must somehow reclaim, reformulate, and nurture a clear public vision, one distinct from that of the great private institutions.

To be sure, many of the challenges are economic -- and our new dean had best be equipped to deal with resource constraints. Nevertheless, I'm convinced that academic leaders must also build a better normative case for public education if they are to garner the needed human and financial resources. Here are five things I'd like to hear from a prospective dean, provost, or president at my public research university:

1. We will strengthen the core -- and build around it. Field-shaping research and first-rate instruction must remain our core priorities, but we can do a much better job building around this core and exploiting our comparative advantages. Our status as public employees can make for cutting-edge research, particularly when it grants entree to unique data sources or research partnerships with state and community leaders. Because our departments serve a large number of undergraduates, our graduate students will gain first-rate instruction and experience in teaching. Undergraduate students, in turn, will get first-hand experiences in community service learning, as research assistants or independent researchers, and as teaching assistants.

2. We will make ourselves useful. One way to strengthen and legitimize our claim to public resources is to conduct more engaged scholarship, outreach, translation research, or extension work that provides some benefit to the citizens who pay a portion of our salaries. Public events and projects with a clear outreach mission (e.g., Contexts magazine) help cement these claims. And we will celebrate and grow those projects that combine field-shaping disciplinary scholarship with the university's public research mission.

3. We will preserve access. Administrators know that students from disadvantaged backgrounds can mess with a university's four-year graduation rate. Great publics must avoid the temptation to "cream" applicants even when it may lower their standing on crude indicators such as the annual U.S. News rankings. A century and a half after the Morrill Act, public universities still provide access and mobility opportunities for students from the "industrial classes" and their modern equivalents. There's nothing more rewarding, as a teacher, than helping students from disadvantaged backgrounds take flight. And, to the extent that we fail to provide access and mobility opportunities, our claim to public resources is correspondingly diminished.

4. At minimum, we will always make it possible for great scholars to do their work. Faculty, students, and staff all wish to be well-compensated and supported in their work, but few of us expect to get rich. As chair, I can often put a strong deal on the table for those I'm recruiting, but it will rarely be a cushy deal. We're not big on permanent teaching reductions or vanity centers, in part, because we're not big on aristocracy. But a great public must create a research-friendly environment in which faculty can do their best work. The minute that such faculty can do work in a private institution that they cannot do in a public institution, the game is over.

5. We will cultivate the idea of public education as a value choice. This is the most controversial element, since education is an elite-driven field. But public schools that don't embrace a positive sense of themselves as public schools are like progressive politicians who don't mention taxes for fear of playing "class warfare." Around campus, we routinely sanction our colleagues for the value choices expressed in the cars they drive or the coffee they drink. Yet the value choice expressed in leaving a public for a private -- or transferring one's kids from a public to a private -- is off-limits in civilized conversation.

Writing this, I realize exactly why the dean candidates we'll be interviewing probably won't discuss such value choices in polite company -- like me (and my kids), they don't want to burn their own bridges!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

lotsa pasta

the lad and i are scheduled for a morning tour at one of the nation's finest public research universities. that is, he'll be coming with me to campus tomorrow.

i'm looking forward to seeing the minnversity as the parent of a prospective student. i'm not sure he'll apply, i'm not sure he'll be accepted, and i'm not sure he'll attend even if he applies and is accepted. still, i'm pretty much thrilled at the prospect of seeing my lad on campus for the next four (or five or ...) years.

since this is tor's last year of high school, we've volunteered to host a pre-game carbo load for his football team. according to the 2008 roster, the 68 lads on his team average 184 pounds, meaning that we'll be feeding 12,512 pounds of boy. moreover, at this stage of the life course, each of them consumes roughly his own bodyweight in groceries each day. that's a lotta pasta...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

a prison cost breakdown from mother jones

mother jones offers a quick breakdown of estimated annual costs per inmate in california prisons. source data come from the bureau of justice statistics, the california department of corrections and rehabilitation, and the national association of state budget officers.

i collapsed some of the smaller categories, but a more detailed table is available online. a big chunk of the annual $49k is clearly tied up in security (mostly personnel, i'm sure, rather than hardware) and another large piece of the pie in medical and psychiatric costs. hmmm. it might be instructive to compare this annualized per person cost breakdown with that of other institutions, such as military, health care, or educational institutions.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

bar chart

with the republican convention soon to arrive in minnesota, the local media are bracing the good citizens of st. paul for all manner of late-night drinking and debauchery. the dems are no better, i'd imagine, so i'm guessing that the denver post is running similar stories. though i can't vouch for its quality, i couldn't resist charting up the d.c. bartender data reported by paul walsh in this morning's strib. the survey of 100 barkeeps was conducted by beam global spirits.
let's see, republicans like their drinks straight and unfruited, while democrats are better tippers, toasters, cosmo-drinkers, and picker-uppers. the lesson? senator clinton's whiskey shot strategy might've won over a few republicans in the general election.

bartenders and cab drivers can provide a wealth of information about the habits of different groups. the beam survey reminds me of a conversation with an experienced bartender at a sociology meeting a few years ago. the memory is hazy, but it went something like this:

sociologist: you must get a lot of conventions -- how does this sociology crowd compare to other groups?
barkeep: you tip okay, but you're boring compared to the psychologists.
sociologist: [shocked] really? why's that?
barkeep: no hookers.

in retrospect, the real shock should've been that we "tip okay."

Sunday, August 17, 2008

two kinds of pain

as i name-dropped in an earlier post, i spent a couple weeks in an exchange program with yuko arimori, japan's 1992 olympic marathon silver medalist. at one point, i mentioned that my marathon times had plateaued around 3:30 and sheepishly asked for training advice. yuko said, "try harder during the race -- not before."

hmmm. i'd attributed my slow progress to a poor training regimen, which i self-servingly attributed to my devotion to family and career. as yuko graciously suggested, i could go faster at my current level of preparation, as long as i was willing to take on a li'l pain.

i'd thought that athletic excellence was a product of genetic endowment and preparation, but lots of people have great bodies and excellent training. the champions are also distinguished by their willingness to suffer during performances -- what james coleman called "zeal," or what sportscasters call "heart." no matter how smooth their stride, the great distance runners also tend to be grinders.

that's why my favorite olympian to date is constantina tomescu-dita (above), who won the women's marathon last night. tough runner. at 38, she was among the oldest women in the field and certainly the oldest to win an olympic marathon. she's a classic front-runner, in the prefontaine sense of the world -- sprinting out in front of the pack and then hanging on until the wheels fall off. though her stride was choppy and her time was far from the record, she gutted out a nice victory.

kara goucher, who ran the 10,000 meters this weekend, didn't finish as strong as ms. tomescu-dita. in fact, ms. goucher called herself out for not pushing harder. here's a quote from jim souhan's strib story:

"The pace was quick and it was starting to get hot, and I made a major mistake. I started thinking about Tuesday [when she'll be running the 5,000 meters], and I let that become a reason that it's OK not to gut it out. It was a big mistake, and I'll be thinking about it for a long time." ... Goucher ran in place for a moment, to demonstrate her energy level, and said: "I have so much stuff left right now, which is the worst feeling, because I'm not laying on the track. Regret is the worst feeling. I'm not saying I would have done any better, but I definitely did not risk it, and that was my only goal for the race, was to risk it."

ouch. my sense is that ms. goucher is probably being too tough on herself, but it reminds me that olympians deal with at least two types of pain: (1) the pain of running to complete exhaustion and breakdown; and, (2) the pain of not running to complete exhaustion and breakdown. for anyone who makes it to the olympics, i'm guessing that the latter pain is worse.

Friday, August 15, 2008

stretching a single into a double

i urged one of my single friends to attend this event tonight, but she declined on grounds that baseball fans were both boring and goofy-looking. well, maybe so, but we're uncommonly nice and even romantic, in a sort of slow-paced bookish way.

c'mon, what could be more romantic? dome fans know what i'm talking about: getting together on the colorful plaza, cheering together for a cute li'l small-market team, laughing together at the kiss cam and wide-eyed kids, eating together from famous daves to frosty malts, then whooshing from the dome together, arm in arm.

Singles Night - Friday, August 15 vs. the Mariners

The Minnesota Twins invite singles from all over the Twin Cities area to an evening at the ballpark. The night will kick off with DJ Eric Popcan,* hosting the social hour including food, games, music, and prize giveaways outside the park. After the social, it's the Twins against the Seattle Mariners in the first game of the weekend series. Here are the highlights of the event:

Home Run Porch game ticket, social, appetizers, and soft drinks included in price
Great Door Prizes (such as bobble heads and autographed items)
Cash Bar (Picnic Area)
Individual and Group orders accepted—Order early and get guaranteed seats together
Club and Group names will be displayed on the scoreboard!
Special gift for Leaders of Groups of 25 or more
Pre-game Social (Outdoor) with games, contests, and music!!
Metrodome Concourse (Indoor) Info Tables for groups purchasing 50 tickets or more
*dang, i bet my friend would've attended if i had mentioned DJ Eric Popcan and the bobblehead door prizes.

the record bag and ironic hoodie as cultural capital: how to get into any club

is this a sprite commercial masquerading as a social experiment or a social experiment masquerading as a sprite commercial?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

reduced disability and mortality among aging runners

as much as i love to run, i'm skeptical about the health claims made in magazine's such as runner's world. in my opinion, most of the studies don't even begin to address the basic self-selection problems in comparing runners with non-runners. a new stanford study of older runners ranks among the best i've seen, applying a basic covariate adjustment strategy (statistically controlling for the effects of age, sex, body mass index, smoking, and initial disability level) to some high-quality longitudinal data.

eliza chakravarty, helen hubert, vijaya lingala, james fries are authors of "reduced disability and mortality among aging runners" in the latest issue of the archives of internal medicine. in my view, this study helps answer the practical question of whether the health benefits of running outweigh any negative health impacts of pounding the pavement. from the abstract:

Annual self-administered questionnaires were sent to 538 members of a nationwide running club and 423 healthy controls from northern California who were 50 years and older beginning in 1984. Data included running and exercise frequency, body mass index, and disability assessed by the Health Assessment Questionnaire Disability Index (HAQ-DI; scored from 0 [no difficulty] to 3 [unable to perform]) through 2005. A total of 284 runners and 156 controls completed the 21-year follow-up. Causes of death through 2003 were ascertained using the National Death Index. Multivariate regression techniques compared groups on disability and mortality. At baseline, runners were younger, leaner, and less likely to smoke compared with controls. The mean (SD) HAQ-DI score was higher for controls than for runners at all time points and increased with age in both groups, but to a lesser degree in runners (0.17 [0.34]) than in controls (0.36 [0.55]) (P < .001). Multivariate analyses showed that runners had a significantly lower risk of an HAQ-DI score of 0.5 (hazard ratio, 0.62; 95% confidence interval, 0.46-0.84). At 19 years, 15% of runners had died compared with 34% of controls. After adjustment for covariates, runners demonstrated a survival benefit (hazard ratio, 0.61; 95% confidence interval, 0.45-0.82). Disability and survival curves continued to diverge between groups after the 21-year follow-up as participants approached their ninth decade of life.

here's is the survival distribution of runners and the comparison group over the study's 21 years (cut and pasted from the original):
the following figure shows predicted disability from linear mixed models, net of the covariates mentioned above.

the upshot is that runners tend to live longer and avoid disability, relative to a non-running comparison group, and that the differences persist into later life. the authors are appropriately cautious in drawing causal inferences, but the results convince me that i should keep running -- and that, on average, the benefits of running outweigh any potential negative effects (e.g., on battered joints or burned-up skin or exploding hearts).

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


by late summer, the ideal department chair has readied her department for the new academic year, pushed all her own projects to conclusion, and taken a nice vacation with the family. most of the chairs that i know, however, are currently racing to avert foreseeable disasters in the new academic year, struggling to push just one of their own projects to a logical stopping point, and putting the vacation off another year.

since it is best to stay cool under such conditions, today's soundtrack is cannonball adderley's jive samba -- an inspiring li'l guide to staying cool, finding joy, being true, and making intelligent choices.

Monday, August 11, 2008

good question

i did an interview today with wcco's jason derusha (at left). i like his regular good question reports, in which local experts answer everything from how do i know my bank is safe? to why does music bring us back?

our conversation about international crime rates should air at 10 tonight. i would've referred this one to colleagues who do more comparative research, but it can be tough to catch folks during the summer. i'm expecting some snarky comments on my jeans and cleanest-dirty-shirt wardrobe. for years, i kept an emergency blue suit in my office for just such occasions, but retired it last month in a fit of housekeeping.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

(you know when i’m down to just my socks) it's time for business

inside higher ed is reporting on sociologists and psychologists trying to make the switch to faculty positions in b-schools:

such are the promises of five newly minted “Post-Doctoral Bridge to Business Programs,” which provide intensive instruction in areas like marketing and finance to instructors who have already completed Ph.D.’s in other fields. The aim of these programs is to equip faculty members with a background in business research techniques to help transition them into business schools, which are struggling to fill tenure-track vacancies.

i'm no expert, but it sounds like a market solution is arising to address the market problem of too few business ph.d.s. that said, i'd be nervous about paying $30-$40k to build such a bridge. i advise scholars contemplating a switch in disciplines to start publishing in the journals that will help them get tenure in the new discipline. if you can't even identify the relevant business journals or associations, it is way too early to make a move. if you are already in the game, however, you can make the leap for intellectual as well as material reasons. and you know what time it is then -- it's business time.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

sixties-style sex segregation

the deets and boardgamegeek recently made mention of a game i must've played in a friend's wood-paneled basement.

the object in both of these 1960s-era games is to achieve one's career while your friends are still floundering around trying to find themselves. to do so, one must collect the appropriate combination of school cards, subject cards, and personality cards.

here are the profession - school combinations for boys:

Law School - Statesman
Graduate School - Scientist
College - Athlete
Medical School - Doctor
Technical School - Engineer
Flight School - Astronaut

and, for girls

College - Teacher
Airline Training School - Airline Hostess
Drama School - Actress
Nursing School - Nurse
Charm School - Model
Ballet School - Ballet Dancer

as i recall, i really wanted to be a scientist or statesman, but the neighbor kid became a famous athlete before i could collect the right cards.

by contemporary standards, of course, the notion of separate career games for boys and girls seems both silly and offensive. by my count, women make up about 47 percent of u.s. law school students, 49 percent of medical school students, 57 percent of college students, 59 percent of graduate students, and 22 percent of engineering students. there's no recent gender equity report for the nation's charm schools, but i'm guessing that they've also become more diverse with regard to gender.

Friday, August 08, 2008

minneapolis parenting class

a local pubcrim note from andy sagvold at the council:

Do you work with or know women with children whose father is incarcerated?

This Parenting Class is a wonderful opportunity for mothers and their children impacted by incarceration. The class is FREE! Also, structured child care, food and transportation to and from the class is provided at no charge. The purpose of the Community Parenting Class is to support the unique challenges of parenting while the father of the children and/or the mother’s significant other is incarcerated.

The next Community Parenting Class starts on August 20th (please see and distribute attached flyer)!! The Council on Crime and Justice would appreciate your help in spreading the word about these classes. Please forward this email on to others that may be interested and/or work with women who are impacted by incarceration. This Parenting Class is in its sixth series, having provided support and parenting education to over 60 mothers in our community! This series of classes will be held at the Council on Crime and Justice (822 South Third St, Mpls MN 55415) and registration can be completed by contacting Karen at (612) 353-3022.


a couple years ago, i posted about how names might help determine life chances. the post was motivated by a wrestler named jack swagger i'd encountered at one of the lad's meets:

mr. swagger, captain of the woodbury high school wrestling team, is introduced at home meets as captain jack swagger, which is cooler still. i watched him take first place in the all-conference meet on saturday and i'll be pulling for him in the state tournament. john updike wouldn't name a character "jack swagger" because it too perfectly connotes masculinity and success. think about it: johnny depp played captain jack sparrow in pirates of the caribbean. swagger would be too much, but sparrow takes it down a notch so that the audience can willingly suspend disbelief.

today, ms. che swagger wrote to inform me that jack is "3rd generation rock n roll" and she chose a name that might resonate in the entertainment industry. sure enough, he's already getting steady work fronting the soviet machines and doing rooftop acoustic homages to his minneapolis forebears. swagger or no swagger, i like a kid who knows his roots. here's the email and a partial list of upcoming gigs -- i might check them out at the cabooze next weekend or the triple rock show in september.

A long belated thank you for your mentioning of my son's name Jack Swagger in a wrestling blog some time ago! It still comes up when searching his name.

It looks like you are a fan of similar music and I would like to direct you to his music page. I am his mom, Che Swagger, and I named him to have a ring in the entertainment industry and sure enough he went there. It helps that he is 3rd generation rock n roll on his dad's side.

It says you enjoy The Replacements. He is also a fan and just finished a (band) single w/producer/grammy winner Kevin Bowe. Kevin plays guitar for Westerberg.

You can find his solo stuff on His (young) band is also out there on They have been on the scene for about a year and are opening for Saliva at the Rock this month, among other gigs...

Aug 15 2008 8:00P The Garage W- Crash Anthem Burnsville, Minnesota
Aug 16 2008 7:00P Cabooze 18+ w/ Gingerjake, Cocaine and Fires At Nite Minneapolis, Minnesota
Aug 24 2008 8:00P The Rock w/ SALIVA Maplewood, Minnesota

Thursday, August 07, 2008


freeman offered a new comment on an old post tonight.

I'm also a convicted felon. That conviction was over 20 years ago. I'm tired of complaining about who want hire me. I survived 15 years in prison because I refused to lay down and die. I paroled a life sentence becasue I believed in the impossible while all those around me wrote me off for dead. I am here. I am free. And I will not settle for less than all I believe...

for some reason, the lines "i am here, i am free" reminded me of an old poem.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

soc and crim revisited

inside higher ed is reporting on a session at the american sociological association meetings, where a task force presented some work on the relationship between sociology and criminology programs. a friend wrote to say that my june remarks on the subject -- that sociology loses criminology at its peril, for both intellectual and material reasons -- got a bit of play in the session.

since the numbers were new to me, i converted a few of the statistics in scott jaschik's IHE piece into digestible and nutritious bar form. if i read the article correctly, soc and crim have both been awarding more degrees over the past five years, but growth in the latter major is rising at a faster rate. it ain't a horserace, of course, but my students are betting heavily on growth in both fields.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

put me in, coach

i was going to do a breezy high school football post today -- about my son, the halfback trapped in a tackle's body -- but got a wakeup call from a pubcrim colleague.

some of you might have seen my public criminology site with michelle inderbitzin and sara wakefield, which recently became a contexts blog. today, michelle shared a powerful op-ed piece by one of her inside-out students at oregon state penitentiary. like me, the man worries about his teenage son. unlike me, the man is stuck behind bars and can't do much to help his son address some urgent problems. an excerpt:

I am not looking to the community to help me, I am a grown man and I have made my decisions. I am asking for help for a child who is a part of Oregon’s community. His arrests have been for assault (fighting with his brother), stealing, and possession of marijuana. He has problems with anger. His mom left when he was a baby, he constantly battles with his cerebral palsy, he has had several operations on his legs, and his father is in prison. Wouldn’t you be angry if it was you?

tor and i have our moments, of course, but in comparison ... there is no comparison. i simply can't imagine what it would be like to watch him struggle from a distance. we've both got a few worries, i suppose, but thus far we've taken our freedom and our health for granted. now he's gearing up for his senior football season and i'm gearing up to share some friday night lights with him.

he's usually smiling these days, even (or especially) when lobbying the running backs coach for a few goal-line carries. but i try to imagine how he'd feel if i was in prison, his mom had left him, and he was too sick to play ball. yeah, i bet he'd be angry too.

Monday, August 04, 2008

ban the box versus open records

i just served as discussant for an american sociological assocation session on incarceration and the labor market and as guest editor for a set of upcoming criminology & public policy papers on the effect of criminal background checks. in each case, some fine sociologists, economists, policy school folks, and criminologists weighed in on research and policy questions surrounding employer access to criminal records.

the stark differences in disciplinary approaches make for stimulating exchanges. for example, in his forthcoming essay, harvard economist richard freeman argues that employers should have greater access to criminal history and post-conviction information. i've long taken the opposite view, citing the poor quality and biases in much arrest and conviction information, the proliferation of trivial records for traffic and misdemeanor offenses, and larger concerns about encroachments on individual privacy rights.

nevertheless, professors freeman and holzer cite theory and emerging evidence suggesting that cloaking such information may have ugly unintended consequences. in the absence of reliable signals about applicants’ criminality, the argument goes, employers will rely instead upon statistical discrimination -- screening out applicants from groups thought to be characterized by high crime rates. the upshot is that young african american males without records could face greater discrimination if employers lose access to criminal record data.

if i remember my undergraduate economics courses correctly, more information is generally better than less information -- and perfect information is best of all. i buy this argument to a point, but would suggest instead that public release of a more uniform, standardized, and parsimonious set of criminal history information might be the best policy course.

here is a list of the papers:

american sociological association session:

Session Organizer: Bruce Western (Harvard University)
Collateral Costs: The Effects of Incarceration on Employment and Earnings Among Young Men - Harry Holzer (Georgetown University)
* Sequencing Disadvantage: Race, Criminal Background, and the Diminishing of Opportunity -Devah Pager (Princeton University)
*Incarceration Length, Employment, and Earnings -Jeffrey Kling (Brookings Institution)
Discussant: Christopher Uggen (University of Minnesota)

criminology & public policy papers (volume 7, issue 3, august 2008)

*Uggen, Christopher. 2008. Editorial introduction: The Effect of Criminal Background Checks on Hiring Ex-offenders. Criminology & Public Policy.
*Stoll, Michael A. and Shawn D. Bushway. 2008. The effect of criminal background checks on hiring ex-offenders. Criminology & Public Policy. This issue.
*Freeman, Richard. 2008. Incarceration, criminal background checks, and employment in a low(er) crime society. Criminology & Public Policy. This issue.
*Western, Bruce. 2008. Criminal background checks and employment among workers with criminal records. Criminology & Public Policy. This issue.