Chris Uggen's Blog: April 2009

Thursday, April 30, 2009

c.v. in wordle

Wordle: my cvi just discovered wordle via teppo at orgtheory. i simply pasted my c.v into the box and hit "go." since the resulting picture offers a pretty fair visual representation of my worklife, i might try this with some more imaginative text.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

the education gradient in a new minnesota poll

some fresh locally grown data via the strib's minnesota poll, conducted last week:

the poll of 1,042 minnesota adults includes some useful information on loss in wages and benefits, support for president obama's economic policies, and subjective financial well-being. with regard to the latter, the education gradient shown above caught my eye.

about 56 percent of college grads considered their financial situation to be good or excellent, relative to about 35 percent of those who had not attended college. about 9 percent of college grads considered their financial situation to be poor, relative to 21 percent of those with some college, and 26 percent of those with no college.

i didn't graph it, but there's also an intriguing age story here that's likely bound up with the education results. relative to every other age group, those aged 35-44 were far more likely to rate their financial situation as good or excellent (51 percent) and less likely to rate their situation as poor (13 percent).

the best advice i ever got...

... was that not all advice is good advice.

i'll take the author at his word that the promise of faculty appointments is "illusory" for graduate's of columbia's religion department, but rest assured that such appointments remain a viable option for accomplished graduates of good sociology programs.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

cinco de mayo gang injunction against .0001

there've been a few problems at the big cinco de mayo celebration on st. paul's west side, including a drive-by shooting last year. this year, the city is seeking an injunction against 10 suspected members of the sureno 13 gang.

having grown up around the west side, i'm sympathetic to the organizers' concerns about public safety in a growing, kid-friendly event. as a criminologist, i'm well aware of the repeated violence and disruption in similar festivals, as well as this festival in previous years. that said, i'm agnostic-bordering-on-skeptical about the claimed effectiveness of such narrowly targeted civil gang injunctions. as a citizen, i'm concerned about restrictions on freedom of assembly, movement, and spatial exclusions.

according to the pi press, the city got the injunction by proving that the gang is a public nuisance whose members have been involved in at least three instances of gang activity in the past 12 months. a ramsey county judge ordered the 10 alleged surenos 13 gang members to be prohibited from engaging in the following activities inside a circumscribed "safety zone" on the west side from 4 p.m. may 1 to 6 a.m. may 3:

No association with known criminal gang members
No intimidation
No use of gang signs
No gang clothing
Don't force any person to join the defendant
Don't prevent any person from leaving the defendant

about 100,000 people attend the event, so the order only targets .01% of the anticipated participants -- the other 99.99% are apparently free to flash gang signs and consort with other gang members. it would be impressive police work indeed if such strategies proved effective in reducing violence at festivals. what happens if any of the 7 named adults or 3 juveniles violates the court order? violation is a misdemeanor, which also provides probable cause for police to remove them from the event.

closed-circuit guitar post

my dobber's been down the past week, so i retreated to the seventies station this weekend and made a li'l joyful noise. it took me back to the school lunchroom -- especially the intro riff and cover image of a shirtless albino man with mutton chop sideburns, red lipstick, diamond necklace, and a prominent mole. anyway, i loved the riff to free ride, but never took the time to suss it out. the original guitarist is surely featured on the mount rushmore of 70s guitar: either rick derringer, ronnie montrose, joan jett, or brother johnny -- i'm betting on derringer.

the tab below isn't much help, but there's some fine youtube instruction available.

RIFF1: (play while droning the open "A" string--not tabbed)
v sv ^ v h ^ v ^ v sv ^ v h ^ v ^
B----( )--9-10--10--8--7--------( )- -8-8--7-(5)--2-----------------
G-----7---9-----9---7--7---------7-- -7-7--7-(6)--2 ----------------
D-----7---9-11--11--9--7---------7-- -9-9--7-(7)--2-----------------

here's the intro, electric full-length and an acoustic version that moves a li'l slower. i started with the acoustic version, then worked my way toward the other two. i'd recommend applying a li'l reverb (5 outta 10), zero distortion, and using the 2nd (dire straits) position on a stratocaster. the trick is a limber slide between the 7th and 9th fret and muting through the chicka-chicka -- which works a whole lot slicker with a li'l chicken grease on your fingers.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

external review

when our department conducted its recent self-study and external review, it turned out to be a constructive experience. really! we shared some good discussions internally, developed ways of thinking and talking about our work for external audiences, and have since implemented some positive changes. yeah, the self-study was time-consuming during the information-gathering phase and a bit stressful during the site-visit phase, but the overall experience was quite positive.

now i'm heading off to serve on the review team for another sociology department. i'll do all i can, of course, to make the process as constructive for them as it has been for us. i'm also hoping to bring a few ideas back to the minnversity, as this department has much to teach us.

Monday, April 20, 2009


well, the eye doctor gave me a glaucoma diagnosis today. i've mentioned my eye problems here before, so i figured i might as well report the latest for my friends and family.

there are more tests to be done and i'm not in the later stages, so i shouldn't be going blind anytime soon. and, i'm honestly a little relieved to learn why i've been having so much trouble seeing and working. my grandmother had glaucoma, so i sort of know the drill. i'll be exploring all sorts of treatments with lasers and eye drops this summer, though i'll likely steer clear of the tetrahydrocannabinol.

the released: a new frontline doc on mentally ill former prisoners

via susan tucker at the open society institute:

The Released a new FRONTLINE/PBS documentary, will be broadcast and made available online starting Tuesday, April 28th at 9pm est.

This documentary promises to be as powerful and disturbing as The New Asylums, also from MeadStreetFilms, where we saw seriously mentally ill men in cages receiving “therapy” and being shuttled back and forth between a maximum security prison in Ohio and the state’s hospital for the criminally insane. And we came to understand the genuine complexity of their situations and yearned for more equally complex and humane responses.

The Released follows some of the same men featured in the first film who were subsequently returned “to the community” -- but more often to the street -- and in some cases have ended up back in prison.

We’re pleased that OSI has been able to support dissemination of the film and development of a, highly informative website... Similar support was awarded for The New Asylums (which can still be seen on Frontline’s website) and before that for The Exonerated by director Ofra Bikel, also shown on PBS.

Friday, April 17, 2009

SRI can only mean one thing...

it isn't the Steel Recycling Institute,
and certainly not the System of Rice Intensification.

no, sri is the minnversity's 19th annual sociology research institute -- friday 4/17 from 9 am until, well, way later than that. we've got some great morning sessions, i'll announce the public sociology award winner after lunch, and one of my favorite sociologists, katherine newman of princeton, is keynoting at 12:45. after the afternoon panels and roundtables, we'll enjoy a li'l collective effervescence in the evening program and beyond. as always, you're welcome to join us for any or all of the festivities. details here. what to wear, what to wear...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

contexts tech fair tomorrow: 11-1 coffman union

the contexts tech folks will be doing a little academic technology showcasin' tomorrow, so i thought i'd spread the word. i'll be there, fronting my very first poster (thanks, suzy). you can also meet podcasters arturo baiocchi and jesse wozniak, as well as the voice of the crawler, amelia cotton corl. the multi-talented arturo is working up the video above, and he'll also be showcasin' the spss flash modules he developed for intro stats.

at this time, i can neither confirm nor deny rumors regarding the appearance of jon smajda,'s reclusive web genius.

Date: Thursday, April 16, 2009
Time: 11:00am - 1:00pm
Location: Mississippi Room, 3rd Floor Coffman Memorial Union

The College of Liberal Arts Office of Information Technology (CLA-OIT) Academic Technologies is pleased to announce the second annual Academic Technology Showcase, featuring CLA innovations in the area of educational and research technologies. This poster-style showcase will feature over 25 exhibits on innovative technologies for teaching and research throughout CLA. Below are examples of what you will experience at the Showcase:

-- Student-produced media podcasts, iTunes U and CLA You Tube Channels
-- Bicycles (and backpacks!) used to make digital graffiti art
-- The GeoWall, which lets you fly over mountains and through valleys without ever leaving the building
-- Exploration of virtual space and time with Time Dig
-- Cutting edge practices in digital music
-- Innovations in online learning and digital course delivery across the CLA curriculum
-- Collaborative art projects using technology

Come check out how technology has affected every facet of today's student!
**All attendees can register to win a Flip Camcorder!**
Departments and Academic Support Centers Represented at the Showcase:

Department of Art (2)
Department of Classical and Near Eastern Studies
Department of Communication Studies
Department of Geography (2)
School of Journalism and Mass Communication
School of Music
Department of Psychology (2)
Department of Sociology (2)
Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies
Department of Speech-Language-Hearing Sciences
Department of Writing Studies
Language Center
Center for Writing
CLA Student Services
CLA-OIT Division of Academic Technologies

Monday, April 13, 2009

minneapolis skid row, c. 1960

via boingboing:

i've read some good histories on minneapolis' old gateway and skid row, but this is the first film i've seen from the period. it isn't pretty, but the footage is amazing. the narrator is johnny rex, proprietor of the sourdough and king of skid row.

flyer for a yard sale, minneapolis 1980

via mnspeak and stuff about minneapolis:

this sign dates to the early days of the incarceration boom. with so many going to prison each year, i'm surprised that i've never seen such an advertisement before. more typically, i see divorce cited as the reason that a car or household goods must be sold.

perhaps prison is too stigmatized to make for an effective marketing pitch. note that the parenthetical -- (for tax evasion) -- appears to have been added after the rest of the sign was prepared. this presumably destigmatizes the seller so as to overcome customers' fears of visiting a prisoner's home. it could also draw buyers, signalling that high-quality goods will be available at the sale. that said, bernard madoff would have a tough time attracting customers if he offered a full-disclosure parenthetical: (for securities fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, money laundering, perjury and making false filings with the SEC). i suspect he'll use christie's instead.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

work-family balance

today's strib offered a fine story on partnered musicians such as adam and sarah young of cloud cult, shown at left awaiting the tour bus in front of their minneapolis home.

as elsewhere, female labor force participation has risen among touring bands. and at least some of the parents are now bringing the kids to coachella. think about it: relative to the average nine-to-fiver, these parents get to spend a lot of time with their kids.

when i was a feature writer in the skinny-tie era, i didn't see many kids backstage. i once asked a musician about a song called tape my wife to the ceiling, which i assumed expressed some kink way beyond my comprehension. instead, he told me it was about wishing that everything at home could stay exactly as it is, while the band was doing the road thing -- after the tour, he just wanted to remove the tape, take the family down from the ceiling, and resume the good life he'd left. he knew the idea was ridiculous (hence the title), but mid-sized bands had few other good options for traveling with their families at the time. a decade or so later, alan and mimi (and superstars with greater resources, i'm sure) made family inclusiveness a pre-condition for touring.

it will take a generation or so to determine whether road life is actually good for kids, but i don't think they're suffering. if one judges by low and cloud cult, the music doesn't suffer either.

Friday, April 10, 2009

depression blogging and the sociological imagination

justin piehowski at minnpost points to lori mocha's fine depression and laughs, addressing the phenomenon of depression blogging. ms. mocha's response was spot-on:

So, yesterday was exciting, what with my article at It was interesting, because I had no idea that depression blogging was a trend! How exciting for all of us sad people.

there are clear elements of both group therapy and personal journaling in such blogs, carried along by the writer's honesty and wit. i'd guess that depressed bloggers generally have the same sort of motivations and procreant impulses as non-depressed bloggers, but i really have no empirical basis to make such a claim.

i expect we'll be seeing a spate of articles in coming years on such basic questions. first, there will be cross-sectional studies asking whether bloggers are more X than non-bloggers (where X=depressed or sleepy, dopey, happy, or bashful). second, there will be longitudinal pre- and post-test studies that ask whether the experience of blogging makes bloggers more or less X at time t than at time t-1 (perhaps relative to a matched comparison group of non-bloggers at t and t-1). third, we'll likely see an event history approach to blog duration, complete with time-varying covariates (e.g., work hours, family changes, grumpy commenters).

on balance, i'd bet that most of this research will show that persistent bloggers realize some sort of benefit from the experience. more personally, i see blogging as a restorative tonic for the sociological imagination, as it gets me writing and thinking about a diverse array of people and events. kieran, as usual, put this best:

As a thing for academics to do, writing a blog can be an endless black hole of self-absorbed wittering — or, it can cultivate a capacity to stay interested in things and to write about them fluently in the course of everyday life. One model can be found at the back of The Sociological Imagination, where Mills has an essay called “On Intellectual Craftsmanship.”

blogging may not have honed my intellectual craftsmanship, but i know it helps me maintain the "playfulness of mind" mills described -- and playfulness comes in handy when our research takes us to depressing places.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

the whole house seems to be thinking...

esperanza's speech team won its section, so her picture will be immortalized in the school's display cases -- just like that of her tie-dyed brother. she competes in poetry, weaving together different inmate writings and delivering them with respect, understanding, and intensity.

i love to see my kids performing or competing, but there's really nothing better than observing them writing in a quiet house, late at night. tor pecks away fiercely, hunched at the computer, while esperanza is more prone to a comfortable chair, paper, and pencil. here's a poem on the subject from richard wilbur:

The Writer

In her room at the prow of the house
Where light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,
My daughter is writing a story.

I pause in the stairwell, hearing
From her shut door a commotion of typewriter-keys
Like a chain hauled over a gunwale.

Young as she is, the stuff
Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy:
I wish her a lucky passage.

But now it is she who pauses,
As if to reject my thought and its easy figure.
A stillness greatens, in which

The whole house seems to be thinking,
And then she is at it again with a bunched clamor
Of strokes, and again is silent.

I remember the dazed starling
Which was trapped in that very room, two years ago;
How we stole in, lifted a sash

And retreated, not to affright it;
And how for a helpless hour, through the crack of the door,
We watched the sleek, wild, dark

And iridescent creature
Batter against the brilliance, drop like a glove
To the hard floor, or the desk-top,

And wait then, humped and bloody,
For the wits to try it again; and how our spirits
Rose when, suddenly sure,

It lifted off from a chair-back,
Beating a smooth course for the right window
And clearing the sill of the world.

It is always a matter, my darling,
Of life or death, as I had forgotten. I wish
What I wished you before, but harder.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

closed circuit to m.k. and c.p.

i love drummer jokes, but this one is apparently real. via stereogum:

Auditions will be held Friday, April 10 in Los Angeles for drummers who are looking to play with THE SMASHING PUMPKINS. They should send their background info, photos and performance web links via email only to:

probably best not to mention jimmy, courtney, or the ticketmaster hearings.

Friday, April 03, 2009

what about a snuggie with a fedora?

minnesota welcomes its first snuggie pub crawl tonight, and james lileks at the strib puts the perfect recession outfit into perspective:

Some people want to curl up on the sofa under something cozy, and still have their hands free in case they want to slit their wrists...

But when you're laid off, it's not good to wear loose clothing. Oh, the first few weeks it's a joy: no more tight bogus Establishment Trousers cinching the gut, no more noose around the neck. Freedom! Now I'll write that novel!

But there's a direct, scientifically proven correlation between elastic waistbands and productivity. No one who's wearing a Snuggie at noon will get a job until the economy is booming so hard they're putting Help Wanted signs in premature infant wards.

i'd post a picture of tor in his snuggie, but it would jeopardize my facebook privileges. it suffices to say that the snuggie is among the few garments that actually fit a long-armed lad of 6'7" and that he enjoys it both ironically and non-ironically. still, i'm with lileks on this one.

But this is not the sort of recession-reaction future generations will admire. I've watched a lot of 1930s movies. The guys have suits with creases you could use to cut cold salami, and they have hats... The bars might want to take a cue from the Great Depression, and make the next one a Fabulous Depression. Look sharp, not like slumped beasts hiding under a sheet of cloth.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

diligence trumps decadence

via carrie swiggum at utne:
in poets and writers, amy shearn describes a phenomenon that might resonate with grad students in any program. expecting to meet wild hunter s. thompson wannabes in her MFA workshops, she found only tireless workers. in writing, as elsewhere, diligence kicks decadence's dissolute arse:

My classmates were more egghead than cokehead. At our parties we played dominoes, complained about the school’s administration, and went home early so we could get up the next day and write. After a while it became clear that the writers who were going to make it—the ones who were getting the grants and publications and cushy fellowships—were those who buckled down and worked hard, the nerds in the wrist braces who filled out paperwork with the diligence of accountants. As for me, I forced myself to stay on a prudent schedule and wrote a few hours every day before heading to my day job. It wasn’t sexy, but it worked. My first novel was published last summer.

i love that line about "going home early to get up the next day and write." but wasn't there a historical moment -- right up through kerouac, i'd imagine -- in which writers had greater license to behave licentiously? in the same article, charles baxter suggests that writers are fallen (rock) stars:

When an artist is no longer envied, when hopes are no longer invested in her or him, the aura fades, as does the glamour. Rock stars still have the aura; they are gods, and gods drink and get drugged-up and go wild and have sex with everybody and die young. Writers are no longer gods; everybody knows that.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

flipping a mobster

after confessing to 14 murders, chicago mobster nicholas calabrese was sentenced to serve 12 years and 4 months by u.s. district judge james zagel. in fact, he could be out as early as 2014, given that he's been incarcerated since 2002 and he'll be credited for time served.

why does an admitted mob hitman merit a lighter sentence than, say, the poor guy in florida who bought too much oxycontin to manage chronic pain? because mr. calabrese gave up the family secrets, that's why, and those secrets helped bring down bosses frank calabrese, joey "the clown" lombardo, and james marcello, as well as lesser enforcers and wayward police officers.

there's a clear utilitarian logic behind cutting such deals, in which the social benefits of locking up the big fish are thought to outweigh the social costs of giving preferential treatment to hit men who snitch. yet how is a judge supposed to balance the clear value of mr. calabrese's cooperation against the clear harm he's done? and how should a judge or prosecutor weigh the normative costs of cutting deals with some of most destructive individuals they encounter in the criminal justice system?

the tribune quotes a u.s. attorney on the paradox, who notes that "pure justice" would have meant lifetime incarceration. nevertheless, unlike a lot of informants, mr. calabrese was uniquely positioned to bust up the "toughest nut to crack" -- and his testimony was indeed a boon to public safety. moreover, the deal offers a general incentive to others, as well as a specific incentive to mr. calabrese: if others come forward, they know there's at least a chance they won't spend the rest of their lives in prison.

of course, 12 years (or 4 years and time served) still feels like an arbitrary and unsatisfying compromise. such sentences remind me of harry blackmun's famous opinion, as he fumbled around for some sort of medical, cultural, and legal rationale to specify the precise moment at which a fetus becomes a human being. while a judge may act with a pragmatic orientation toward the greater good, any cut-point between zero and life (or conception and birth, i suppose) is likely to seem arbitrary. i'm not sure whether such judges are compromised or courageous. probably both.