Monthly Archives: December 2007

the not-empty nest

There is no milk for my cereal this morning.  Two days ago, when there was no milk in the morning, my husband got his car stuck in the snowplow-created snow dam trying to get milk for me before I got up.  (Yes, he is a sweetheart.  But I’m OK, too.  After we got him unstuck, I shoveled out the snow dam while he shopped.)  Today there’s no snow dam in the driveway but he’s puttering in the basement and either did not notice the problem or thought I would not be up yet since I was working until 3 or decided I could live without my cereal this time.  Why do we have a problem with such a simple thing as keeping milk in the frig, you say?  The emptiness or fullness of our nest oscillates.  Our adult children may or may not be in the house and, when around, may invite over a number of other people which, itself, is a random variate.   The younger people often arrive and eat in the wee hours.  We joke that we can’t go downstairs in our underwear at midnight because we might have unexpected company.  It could be amusing to try to model the fluctuations.  But first I’ll fix peanut butter toast.

Just thought those of you with little children might want to know what you can look forward to.   (For the record, yes it is much less work and yes we are glad our offspring feel comfortable about inviting their friends to hang out here.  Peanut butter toast is a small price to pay, although I’d still rather have my cereal.)

no one knows the world is upside down

I know that others have noticed that Google Books sometimes show the fingers of folks doing the work of scanning old texts. But there is just no excuse for this.

graphs on web: technical question

I want to post information that consists of ~200  graphs on my web site in a format that will be accessible to the most people.  I don’t want to spend a ton of time doing this and would prefer to have the files as small as possible.  I am generating the graphs in Stata, which can produce files in these formats: wmf, pdf, png, tif; I can also have software that can translate into these formats: jpg, gif, bmp.   The .wmf graphs I produced are mostly 8-10 kb each, but there is another set that are 70-100kb each.  What format do you suggest I put them into?  If you want to give feedback about legibility etc issues based on more detailed knowledge of what is in them, please let me know and we can communicate privately.

scatterplot checks into the chelsea hotel

This post needs to make a reference to oral sex and you’ll just have to get over it. Continue reading

why do we interview?

Having sat through a series of interviews with job candidates (and been on some myself) I have begun to wonder why we take the interview so seriously as part of the job process. I understand that if you’re hiring someone you want to see what they’re like – but I’m curious about how and why the interview is weighted. My concerns about this are multiple. Continue reading

home, sweet home

I am back from my holiday visit to my parents and sister, glad to be home. I was a little helpful here and there, and my sister and I had some chances to talk about the plan. I think my biggest accomplishment was convincing both of my parents to finally get hearing aids. I hope they weren’t just pulling my leg while I was there, but you never know.

I think I mentioned before that it was weird to me, after my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, to find that things back home weren’t that much different than before. I guess that mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s looks much like old age a lot of the time, with some more troubling episodes in between, which we were spared on this visit. Other than that, they are the same old parents they ever were.

Also on the up-side: I got to catch up a little bit on my stack of sociology journals on the flights there and back. Maybe I’ll be caught up with 2007 in time for the Best of 2008 contest next year. (By the way, is it a bad sign that for our “top 10 sociological insights of 2007,” we were only able to come up with four?

randomness hits close to home.

A few weeks ago, jeremy posted about the intricacies of randomness:

People have asked and, yes, the graphic is an actual scatterplot generated using Stata, although the data are random (and uniformly distributed on both the abscissa and ordinate.) Note the relatively large spaces of white adjacent to places where the points are densely bunched on top of one another. That’s what true randomness really looks like, and the reason people are bad when they try to fake random numbers (or coin flips, or financial transactions, or scatterplot points) is that they think randomness should be more evenly spread.

Unfortunately, this is particularly poignant today. My neighbor, who I only knew as she passed by and would wave, lost her life while riding as a passenger in a small plane with her husband. Although I know my other neighbors quite well, these two kept to themselves. This was expected, as they were grieving. For it was just last year, right before we moved into the neighborhood, that her daughter lost her life while piloting another small plane.

The intricacies of randomness, and the randomness of tragedy. Heartbreaking.

sociology’s home court advantage

So, orgtheory has had a couple of posts (here and here) about journal comments that follows my own, perhaps overdramatic, earlier post on the topic. Part of one thread, as well a post by Peter, follows up on my statement that there is often a “wild lack of critical thinking that many sociologists evince toward work that claims to show the triumph of some sociology-affirming narrative.” The discussion over there has been mostly about sociology versus economics, but where I’ve more comparative advantage is with sociology versus “biology.” What I’m talking about here is work that first depicts some duel between sociology and “biology” as competing confederations of causes, and then professes to offer arguments or evidence on behalf of the sociology side.

Sure, I understand fully that you would expect a bias in favor of sociology-affirming findings for papers in sociology journals. Permit an analogy. Continue reading

i knew there would be days like this, and i signed up anyway

winter view
(view from my window, right now)

The only conceivable justification for my current apartment is the view. Which I do adore. Except, when the weather is windy and rainy outside, you get to see it in all its ugly dysplendor. That can actually be quite fun to watch when you are staying in anyway. And, when you must go up to the office then at least you’ve got a full view to prepare for what the reality is. When you are in-between—say, you really feel you should go up to campus, although it’s hard to spell out precisely why you feel that way—it’s a great promoter of precipitation-borne procrastination. Continue reading

symbolic dominance, culture and religion

When the war of the yard signs was at its peak several years ago, I wanted to put three popular signs in my yard, all together:
Let Your Light Shine: Fight Racism
We Support Gays and Lesbians
Keep Christ in Christmas
My state celebrates the winter season with the war of the symbols.  Nativity scenes on public property justly spark lawsuits by those who are not Christian.  Menorahs and “separate church and state” banners flank the decorated evergreen tree whose very name is subject of debate in the legislature.  Proposals to include Wiccan pentacles and Festivus poles add to the fun.  Some Christians have decided that “their” holiday has been ruined by any acknowledgment of others, Continue reading

rudolph the red nosed counterfactual

Sara, I’m not sure if Santa is alive AND parents give you presents or if it’s really just parents who give you presents.

That’s a pretty serious question, Finn.  How do you think you could find out the answer to that? Continue reading

ode to fruitcake

I’m not creative enough to write an ode. But I will say this, I love fruitcake. What’s not ot like? Fruit, booze, and cake? I’m making one this afternoon. The fruit has been soaking for six days (I even brought it, soaking in a bowl, on the Amtrak from NYC to Maine). It’s going to be great. I think I’ll start making Holiday fruit cakes and sending them to folks next year. It will be my version of conversion work.

This is the first time in a while that Eid and Christmas have been so close – so a week of celebrations in the O’Malley (mom)/Khan (dad) household! Happy holiday all.

update to the greatest christmas counterfactual ever

Is here. I will admit, I’ve wondered many times what my life would be like if the Internet had never been invented. My main conclusions are that I would have read more books, be less well apprised of current events, and have less geographically dispersed and less interesting friends. I’ve also wondered many times how growing up in rural Iowa would have been different had there been e-mail and the Web back then. There, presumably, I would have grown up feeling much less–shall we say–unusual, probably with both good and bad consequences.

The most farfetched part of It’s a Wonderful Life is the idea that Donna Reed would have ended up a spinster librarian if not for George Bailey.

the problem with optimism.

My parents called this morning to let us know they were leaving for the airport and to talk to B one more time (knowing my mother, this is because she’s always afraid she’s going to crash without saying goodbye to those she loves). At any rate, apparently my mom told B that she’d be in South Bend about 8:30pm. Because I realize the inadequacies of Chicago-O’Hare International Airport and am well aware of the weather-related problems occurring in Chicago, South Bend, and the toll-road between them, I told B that she was being an optimist. B said, “Well, Mom, I prefer to think of it as being positive.”

I take this as a clear indication that my child has only heard me use the word optimist in a negative light and thinks it’s a put-down. I guess I’ve got my first new year’s resolution – work on being optimistic about optimism.

grade inflation comes home to roost

We’ve had so much discussion about grade inflation in higher education lately, I think it is becoming part of me just by osmosis. The first 7 or 8 years I was at Notre Dame, I was one of the tougher graders in the department. The last two years, not so much. Continue reading

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