Chris Uggen's Blog: November 2008

Sunday, November 30, 2008


i recently joined a daily cardinal alum group, though all i contributed to madison's proud ol' bird was a handful of bleary-eyed concert reviews. still, i'm happy to have spilled a little ink on the same pages as all those pulitzer winners and tv types like jeff greenfield and rita braver.

is it my imagination, or do a lot of sociologists seem to have dabbled in journalism in high school or college? at the next department gathering, you might ask your colleagues how many of them worked on their high school newspaper. just as i edited the sibley scribe back in west st. paul, i learned today that kathy hull edited her school paper in michigan, as did doug in missouri.

though i've always loved writing, i left the cardinal in the fall semester of my freshman year. there were some real journalists in the vilas hall basement in those days -- and they weren't dabbling at all. i recall one cardinal veteran telling me that he liked my writing, "but isn't a music critic supposed to be ... you know, a little critical?" while i never had the heart to savage a struggling musician on an off-night, i eventually developed a critical perspective as a sociologist. perhaps a few other ex-journalist sociologists have followed similar trajectories.

Thursday, November 27, 2008 is an interactive website developed by university of san francisco faculty and students to document human trafficking. from the site:

"It's time to show the world that slaves exist among us. Restaurants and fields, construction sites and brothels, suburbs and cities: all are home to victims of trafficking in the United States and abroad. Twenty-seven million slaves in the world, and we want to find them. SlaveryMap exists to record and display instances of human trafficking across the globe. Whether you find them hidden in your hometown or covered in The New York Times, report the incidents onto this map for people everywhere to see. If you encounter a current situation of bondage, do not enter the information here. Please immediately call the US national trafficking hotline number so that the proper law enforcement and service providers can be alerted: 1-888-3737-888... Welcome to the movement."

forget the spread and let history be your guide

i'm rooting for the hapless lions and seahawks in today's early games, though they're both heavy underdogs. hoping that perhaps history would be on their side, i charted the all-time turkey day winning percentages by franchise. hmm. maybe my vikes should start scheduling a few more thanksgiving classics...

today's schedule:

Tennessee v. Detroit 12:30pm ET CBS
Seattle v. Dallas 4:15pm ET FOX
Arizona v. Philadelphia 8:15pm ET NFL

closed circuit guitar post

when fender emailed yesterday, heralding the introduction of their new yngwie tribute guitar, i immediately forwarded the link to (actual guitarist/web editor) jon smajda. this is only the most recent offering in fender's series of pre-distressed tribute guitars. everyday clods like me could never play them like yngwie or stevie, of course, but the look and feel of SRV and yngwie's PLAY LOUD has been expertly rendered and commodified by the fine luthiers at fender.

but you've gotta see the video, which surely out-spinal-taps all that came before it. jonny especially appreciated mr. malmsteen's historical reconstruction of the divots in the back: “I think this is from the biting, actually. (Bites guitar.) In fact, I know it is.”

speaking of our beloved contexts web editor, there are rumors afoot that he's starting up a new sociology novelty band, a side-project emanating from his talcott parsons project. a few of the names that jon and chris are kicking around:

  • Fleetwood Marx
  • Goffman Turner Overdrive
  • Death Cab for Cooley
  • Gans n’ Roses (or, for local flavor, Uggens n’ Roses)
  • System of a Durkheim
  • Foucault Fighters
  • Crosby, Mills and Nash (Crosby, Mills, Nash and Jung)
  • Bill Haley and His Comte’s
  • Simon and Garfinkel
  • Karl Mannheim Steamroller
  • Bellah and Sebastian
  • Chris and Coser
  • The Mighty Mighty Boss-Tonnies
  • A Tribe Called Joel Best
  • Arendt in Chains
  • Twisted Simmel
  • Better Than Elster
  • The Rolling Stinchcombes

oh man, if they name it uggens and roses, i can personally deliver one enormous bass player and a talented esperanza in addition to my own, err...., distinctive vocal stylings and arrhythmic guitar. while i like the concept, however, i'm not sure you can beat twisted simmel.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

analyst position with hennepin county sherriff's office

Job Title: Criminal Information Analyst
Closing Date/Time: Thu. 12/04/08 5:00 PM Central Time
Salary: $40,740.00 - $66,456.00 annually
Location: Downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota
Department: Sheriff's Office

The Criminal Information Sharing & Analysis Unit of the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office is looking for a Criminal Information Analyst to perform a wide range of analysis of information relating to criminal activities in support of law enforcement and criminal investigations...There are two positions available - one full-time, benefit earning, permanent and one full-time, benefit earning, limited duration appointment of up to two years. The primary duties and responsibilities of this position include:
  • Research, compile, analyze and map crime trends and patterns.
  • Assist patrol, investigative and administrative staff in planning the deployment of resources for the prevention, intervention, and suppression of criminal activities.
  • Provide investigative case support to assist in criminal investigations.
  • Produce and disseminate information sharing bulletins and alerts.
  • Act as liaison to all Hennepin County Sheriff's Office and neighboring law enforcement Crime Analysis Details.
  • Gather, research and analyze information in order to develop criminal information products.
  • Perform crime analysis in support of law enforcement efforts.
  • Detect and describe tactical, administrative, and strategic links, patterns, and trends in crimes.
  • Respond to inquiries from law enforcement and other agencies.

The Ideal Candidate will have:

  • Bachelor's degree or higher in sociology, psychology, criminal justice, law enforcement, business/public administration, or a closely related field PLUS one year of analyst, investigative or law enforcement experience (experience may be substituted for education on a year for year basis).
  • Knowledge of research and data analysis methods and techniques.
  • Ability to collect, assemble, analyze, and evaluate evidence, statistics, and other pertinent information to draw logical conclusions in order to effectively solve crimes.
  • Experience working with Arc GIS Mapping, Pen Link or I2 analytical software.
  • Experience working with Microsoft Office products (Word, Excel, Access, Powerpoint).
  • Ability to communicate effectively orally and in writing.
  • Experience working with federal, state and local law enforcement databases.
  • Ability to demonstrate the employee competencies.

This position may be subject to overtime or extended hours when necessary. Applicants must have no felony convictions.Selection Process: A top group of applicants will be identified based on an evaluation of Education and Experience. Candidates who are offered employment will be required to pass, prior to appointment, a drug screening, and must successfully complete a background investigation conducted during the six month probationary period.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

herd immunity and social reinforcement

i received the sticker at left this morning, along with my free flu shot and oreo cookies at willey hall. though public health campaigns generally appeal to individual self-interest, the minnversity is pitching its flu vaccination program as a pro-social act.

the immunological concept of herd (or community) immunity is inherently social: for diseases passed person-to-person, the chain of infection quickly breaks down when much of the "herd" is immune. vaccination of a sufficient proportion of the population therefore protects the unvaccinated as well as the vaccinated. if enough of us get the shot in november (there's a nasal spray option as well, for the needle-averse), there will be little fever and vomiting on campus in february.

just as i voted stickers provide social reinforcement for civic and political participation, the cow sticker provides cool-dork reinforcement for the putatively pro-social act of immunization. plus, the cow logo is so tight that my wizversity friends are kicking themselves for not thinking of it first. though wisconsin remains america's dairy state, we minnesotans cherish our cows as much as our civic participation.

Monday, November 24, 2008


the smart economists tell me the economy will get waaaay worse before it gets any better. still, i'd like to think we're entering a period of hopeful austerity rather than soul-crushing malaise. i'm therefore reprising white castle's timeless stuffing and william devaughn's recession-era be thankful as my official foodstuff and soundtrack for thanksgiving 2008.

speaking of the holiday, here's a food n' family story from my aunt jan, who is pro-thanksgiving but anti-white castle:

From a genealogy magazine, Family Tree January 2009 issue (page 60), the following story about a Thanksgiving meal was printed. “My paternal grandmother, Olive Roberta (Hills) Gehrandt, was a terrible cook. But she outdid herself one Thanksgiving. As my Grandfather was starting to carve the turkey for the hungry guests, she commanded, ‘Gustav, don’t give anyone the stuffing from the front of the bird. I wanted Otto to have a taste of turkey, so I stuffed that section with his dog food’. Suddenly nobody was quite as hungry as before.”

yeesh. maybe nobody else was hungry, but i'll bet otto was thankful for what he got.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

with your chrome heart shining in the sun

neil young is blogging at huff post today, offering a classic youngian amalgam of cultural aesthetic, social responsibility, and technological innovation. it all comes together in mr. young's linc volt project to remake his '59 lincoln into a big n' clean electric car.

i can't vouch for its engineering or feasibility, but i've long admired mr. young's heroic efforts to reuse and repair beautiful and ancient gear, such as ol' black, lionel trains, the tour bus pocahontas, and mort the hearse. if american culture is to remain our most important export, there's room in the green revolution for a '59 continental that delivers 100 miles per gallon.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

mindless college investing

if you are blessed with small children and in a position to help them with college costs, i can offer a li'l friendly investment advice based on my experiences this year: you might consider taking the age-based college savings option.

years ago, we put some money into two 529 plans for the kids -- not much, but enough to get them through at least the first year or two in a school like the minnversity. the age-based plan gradually shifts the funds from a riskier equity portfolio at age 0-3 (shown above) to a less risky bond and money market portfolio at age 15-17 (shown below).

with tor graduating next year (fingers crossed), his college fund could have been decimated by the sudden recent drop of 40 to 50 percent in the major stock market indices. instead, his portfolio is only down about 11 percent year to date. that's still worse than sticking the money under a mattress, of course, but far better than the 30 percent loss he'd have taken if we stuck with the age 0-3 allocation. we opted for a different state plan with esperanza, but took the same age-graded option.

as a general rule, my investments tend to do better when set on auto-pilot than when i try to manage them actively. when i signed up for these funds, i remember thinking that age-based plans were mindless and that a smart money manager could probably outperform them. fortunately, i knew that i was not a smart money manager and that, nine times out of ten, mindlessness will outperform ignorance, laziness, and procrastination.

here's a final bit of middle-age-guy advice to parents with preschoolers: the 2008 downmarket period seems like an ideal time to scrape together a couple hundred bucks to start those college savings plans. 2025 will be here before you know it...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

inside higher ed on growth of sociology majors

via inside higher ed:

Sociology departments are successfully attracting students, but without a corresponding growth in faculty lines. That’s the conclusion of a new national survey of sociology departments conducted by the American Sociological Association. The survey — conducted in 2007 and updating a study from 2001 — came before the recent economic downturn that has crunched budgets at many colleges and is probably adding to the pressures documented in “What Is Happening in Your Department?”

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

introducing the new contexts podcast

our fun-loving contexts crew has released its first podcast, hosted by the inimitable woz and arturo from our grad student board, with extra-fine production by sarah, engineering by smajda, and facilitation by sullivan. we're aiming for biweekly episodes, featuring interviews with contexts authors, some fresh sociological discoveries, a li'l music, and some general levity.

podcast #1 is titled jesus and andrew perrin, which sounds like the moniker for an eighties noise band. in this inaugural episode, we highlight a few religion-themed discoveries from our new fall issue and talk with professor perrin about his feature article, why you voted. if you'd like to catch podcast #2, featuring an interview with jen'nan read, subscribe to our feed or wait for it to show up on itunes.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

on the shoulders of giants

i resorted to rumsfeldian diction in updating colleagues about the suddenly roiling financial waters of the minnversity. you know the quote:

"There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know." - Donald H. Rumsfeld (2002), "Defense Department Briefing."

joe theory points out that secretary rumsfeld must've been cribbing from robert merton (as we all have from time to time):

"In anything but a paradoxical sense, newly acquired knowledge produces newly acquired ignorance. For the growth of knowledge and understanding within a field of inquiry brings with it the growth of specifiable and specified ignorance: a new awareness of what is not yet known or understood and a rationale for its being worth the knowing." - Robert K. Merton (1981), "Remarks on Theoretical Pluralism."

in minnesota, we sell actual skis on craigslist

via crimprof: the daily news reports that dealers are posting their wares on craigslist:

"Ski lift tickets are here for sale ... Tina Turner tickets ... best seats around!" Offers like these appear virtually every day on craigslist, and they are thinly veiled ads posted by people hawking cocaine (ski) or crystal meth (cristina or tina)...

"They'll offer ski tickets in July in New York, and Tina Turner tickets when she's not performing in town." Marijuana ads are more, er, blunt. It is usually referred to by name or as "420." ...

One case involved a Citigroup vice president, Mark Rayner, 33, who was selling Ecstasy. "Anyone want to go to roxy and get high and enjoy hex hector? E., K, Snow, tina, its all good," he wrote on craigslist. He did the deal near his midtown office, giving an undercover agent 50 Ecstasy pills and 7 grams of cocaine for $1,200.

i'd heard about the craigslist crackdown on sex workers, but these drug ads seem even more amateurish -- and way too thinly veiled, given the looong sentences meted out to dealers these days. why would dealers ignore such sanctions and post anyway? i'm guessing there's some sort of contagion effect, in which illicit ads beget other illicit ads. that is, persons encountering an ad for an illegal product or service will likely deem it safe to post their own ads for illegal products or services.

Monday, November 17, 2008

top three from asc

i'm back from the criminology meetings in st. louis and working my way through correspondence. in brief,

1. favorite paper:

The Assessment and Consequences of Legal Financial Obligations: Evidence from Washington State by Alexes Harris and Katherine Beckett (University of Washington).

fine work. the authors assess a classic question with important contemporary implications -- the imposition of financial obligations on those convicted of crimes.

2. favorite restaurant:

riddles on delmar in university city. friendly and unpretentious, with an amazing menu and wine list. if i lived in the area, i'd go twice a week until i'd worked my way through the menu. then i'd go three times a week.

3. favorite music:

i saw a fine blues guitarist named rich mcdonough, but the band that truly twanged my strings was the cosmic cowboys -- warm, genre-busting music rendered with real affection. when i asked front guy richard dempsey about their inspired gram/merle/earle/buckaroo/burrito/byrds set list, he said that after a lot of years in the business they're just playing what they want to play.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

probably just going down the list

whenever some college coach calls the house, tor claims "he was probably just going down the list." maybe so, but i still get a little excited by such calls and i sure hope the tall lad is returning them.

recruiters or no, the lads from rosemount beat our mustangs fair and square, usurping their state tournament dreams. dang. in a fit of confidence, i had rearranged my travel to make it back for saturday's state semis, but so it goes. for the next few days, i'll be at the american society of criminology meetings in st. louis:

Wed, Nov 12 - 9:30am - 10:50am, Hyatt / Director's Row 25 Design and Overview of the Minnesota Exits and Entries Project

Wed, Nov 12 - 2:00pm - 3:20pm, Director's Row 41 Gender Differences in Drug Use: Patterns of Continuity and Change

Thu, Nov 13 - 8:00am - 9:20am, St. Louis Ballroom D An Experimental Audit of the Effects of Low-level Criminal Records on Employment

Fri, Nov 14 - 11:00am - 12:20pm, Director's Row 27 Democracy and Citizenship in Prison

hope to see you there.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

a poem for fall air travel

we've had a busy transition weekend. esperanza's play closed yesterday, as did tor's football career and his team's run at the state tourney.

i'm getting ready for travel, which brings to mind this mark halliday poem (via poetry daily):

Not Exactly Woody Guthrie

As I lugged my luggage past the airport bar
I angled my neck to peer between drinkers
to see whether the field goal was good
in whatever game it was
because those people cared apparently
and I wanted for a second not to be too different.

Okay but also wanted to reap the benefit for a few seconds
of an image of successful performance in a ritualized activity
where skill earns unerasable points
and the swarming helmeted deniers can't quite reach you.

poem from Mark Halliday
photo from flickr

Thursday, November 06, 2008

GIS workshop on wednesday at ASC meetings

rob parker is conducting a 3-hour workshop on geographic information systems at next week's american society of criminology meetings. i'm not sure whether space remains available, but rob is a great scholar and teacher -- it should be a terrific introduction to gis, mapping, and spatial analysis.

Are you going to the ASC meetings in November? Would you like to learn more about how GIS, Mapping and Spatial Analysis can enhance your research, teaching, and outreach? Robert Nash Parker will be offering a 3 hour workshop on GIS, Mapping, and Spatial Analysis based on my new book, GIS and Spatial Analysis for the Social Sciences: Coding, Mapping, and Modeling (Routledge, 2008). Learn to solve geocoding problems efficiently and effectively. Develop maps that display multiple types of data yet have the visual impact no table or model can. Get a concise and accessible introduction to Spatial Modeling techniques and Spatial Statistics. Get a chance to buy the new book, which comes with free software and data, at 20% off the retail price, with no shipping costs, autographed by the author! All of this can be available to you for only $25.00, literally hundreds less than comparable commercial GIS workshops. The workshop will take place on Wednesday, November 12, 2008, at the Crowne Plaza Downtown St. Louis Hotel, 200 North 4th Street, a block from the ASC Convention Marriott and Hilton headquarters Hotels. The workshop will be held from 9 AM until noon. Handouts will be included in the price that provide step by step instructions for a number of geocoding, map making, and spatial modeling examples, based on materials from GIS and Spatial Analysis for the Social Sciences; copies of the book will be available for purchase (check or cash accepted), for $40.00, more than a 20% discount. To register for the workshop, email Rob Parker at Admission to the workshop without an advance email reservation will be based on availability and on a first come, first serve basis.

first-person accounts from sex workers and their clients

susannah breslin is blogging first-person letters from johns and letters from working girls. the accounts are revealing, if sometimes painful and/or prurient. i wouldn't link to them from a sociology coursepage on sexuality or deviance without offering some major disclaimers about bias, reliability, and validity. with these caveats, however, the blogs might give students a glimpse into the motivations and experiences of sex workers and their clients.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

oregon deals major blow to minnesota civic pride

michael mcdonald's election blog provides some preliminary state-by-state turnout estimates for the 2008 election:

My preliminary national turnout rate for those eligible to vote is 62.6% or 133.3 million ballots cast. This number may yet rise further as absentee ballots arrive and provisional ballots are processed, particularly in some western states. Until these outstanding ballots are counted, I would like to provide a conservative estimate. This turnout rate would be the largest since the 62.8% of 1964. If we top that number, which we might, the next highest turnout rate would be 63.8% in 1960.

by the standard of recent u.s. elections, 63 percent is a pretty respectable turnout number. the chart below arrays states by professor mcdonald's participation rates, shading them blue or red (or purple where the vote count is not yet finalized) based on the candidate and party taking home that state's electoral votes. in general, turnout was much higher in blue/obama states than in red/mccain states.

we were aiming for 80 percent turnout in minnesota, but came up a bit short at 77.5 percent of the voting eligible population. oregon wins the participation prize with 79.3 percent (not coincidentally, oregonians vote by mail). in football rivalries, minnesota competes against michigan for a little brown jug and with wisconsin for paul bunyan's axe. i'd like to see our secretaries of state competing for a li'l brown ballot box or similar traveling trophy.

big night

fun night. i'm guessing it won't take long at all before americans get used to the idea of an african american president. some kids i know are already saying it is sort of racist to even act like it is a big deal. that's what's cool about kids and history -- big events almost instantaneously reduce centuries of struggle to boring taken-for-granted facts to be memorized. only a year ago, barack obama was just a longshot for naive dreamers. tomorrow, his ascension will seem completely natural and perhaps inevitable. and that's how social change happens, i guess. fun night.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

immigration enforcement and federal justice statistics, 2005

the bureau of justice statistics recently released a report on federal law enforcement statistics for 2005. partly as a result of the 2002 homeland security act, arrests for immigration offenses have risen dramatically. by 2005, 27 percent of the 140,200 federal bookings were for immigration offenses, up from about 13 percent in 1995.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

1 in 1.108286 million

tor's lads won their section championship friday night, so they're among the eight big-school teams playing in the state tournament that starts this weekend. he helped clear a nice path for the backs, got a few pats on the back, and enjoyed his final game at mustang stadium.

tor's athletic career got me thinking about how many other students are involved in football and other high school sports. according to the national federation of high school coaches, over a million u.s. high school students (1,108,286) played football last year (27,626 of them in minnesota) and record numbers are participating in sports more generally.

a new report shows the gender distribution of participants in different sports in 2007-2008. it provides raw numbers rather than rates (i.e., nothing is standardized by population differences), so i'd exercise caution in interpreting the trend data. nevertheless, here are a few highlights from the press release:

  • boys and girls participation figures reached all-time highs in 2007-08, with 3,057,266 girls and 4,372,115 boys participating . The girls figure surpassed last year's record of 3,021,807, while the boys figure eclipsed the former record of 4,367,442 set in 1977-78. an estimated 54.8 percent of students enrolled in high schools participate in athletics.

  • competitive spirit squads gained the most female participants in 2007-2008 with 16,130, followed by soccer with 8,913 and cross country with 6,973. lacrosse gained the most participants among boys with 11,336, followed by soccer with 5,562, swimming and diving with 5,158 and cross country with 5,042. combined boys and girls participation increased the most for bowling (17 percent) and lacrosse (14 percent).

  • for girls, basketball was the most popular sport (449,450 participants), followed by outdoor track and field (447,520), volleyball (397,968), fast pitch softball (371,293), soccer (346,545), cross country (190,349), tennis (172,455), swimming and diving (147,197), competitive spirit squads (111,307) and golf (69,243).

  • for boys, 11-player football had the most participants (1,108,286), followed by basketball (552,935), outdoor track and field (548,821), baseball (478,029), soccer (383,561), wrestling (259,688), cross country (221,109), golf (159,958), tennis (156,285) and swimming and diving (111,896).

  • i plotted the current participation numbers by sport in the figure below. basketball, track, swimming, and soccer are popular among both girls and boys; football and baseball are almost exclusively male sports; and, volleyball, softball, spirit, and field hockey are predominantly female sports. there are some major differences in participation rates and in the gender gap in participation across the states.

    • Texas has the most sports participants with 779,049, followed by California (735,497), New York (380,870), Ohio (346,571), Illinois (336,646), Michigan (315,734), Pennsylvania (286,992), New Jersey (256,837), Minnesota (230,068) and Florida (227,157).
    i was surprised to see minnesota so high on the list, given our relatively small population base. the gender gap in participation appears to be most pronounced in southern states, with girls accounting for about 33% of participants in alabama relative to about 47% of participants in pennsylvania.

    in my house, tor participates in a lot more sports than esperanza, but she participates in far more arts, drama, and creative school activities than he does. so, while i'll miss the friday night lights at mustang stadium, i'm looking forward to four more years of great performances in the school auditorium.