querying quants (a triptych)

I.

“I had dinner last night with someone who self describes as a ‘quant jock.’ Is that a familiar phrase to you?”

“Yeah, it gets used a lot at the Kennedy School.”

“So, I understand what it is to be a ‘quant’ – both in finance and in social science – but what’s a ‘quant jock’?”

“It just refers to someones who’s really good at quantitative methods, but I’ve never heard anyone use it to refer to themselves.”

“So, is Jeremy Freese a quant jock?” Continue reading “querying quants (a triptych)”

why does college cost so much?

The cost of higher education has far outstripped the cost of living. In the late 1960s, my tuition at an elite private school was $2400 a year, the equivalent of $12,381 in today’s dollars. Tuition today at that same elite school is $33,000. (Room & board is extra.) I’ve read reports that say that on a percentage basis, the cost of public colleges and universities has risen even faster.

At the same time, financial aid is down. Continue reading “why does college cost so much?”

finally!

Finally! Something happens to dull the sting of having had my Wikipedia page deleted due to “lack of notability.” By way of explaining what, my prominent-blogger friend Ann and I have divergent political views. Some more ideologically-simpatico friends of mine thought it was hilarious when somebody started a parody blog about her blog. I didn’t find it amusing, because I thought some of the humor went over the good-taste line and the rest was merely repetitive, although perhaps I would have thought it was more funny if I didn’t feel personal loyalty. Regardless, another emotion I felt was envy: somebody else was sufficiently moved by her blog to start and maintain a whole blog of their own all about her blog. I mean, c’mon! What better evidence that one has arrived?

Okay, so I know this isn’t anywhere near the same league of thing, but still: somebody in sociology has started a snark-blog* for which three of the first five posts link either to my former blog or to Scatterplot. Orgtheory, by contrast, has but a single snark-link. To recap: Scatterplot/JFW 3, Orgtheory 1. Continue reading “finally!”

built on others’ backs?

So I went to an “untenured faculty” meeting at Columbia recently. Rather foolishly I expected the meeting to be about the plight of the assistant professor. You know, struggles, stress, fighting for more respect, how do deal with feelings of insecurity, etc. That was exactly what it was about, except that with the exception of me and another sociologist friend, the meeting was almost completely filled with adjuncts. I never really knew how much of the teaching at Universities happened by folks who are treated, well, to put it bluntly, very poorly. And by all reports, things are getting worse.

As I left the meeting, instead of feeling a sense of solidarity with my fellow junior faculty members, I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt. I walked in thinking that I would be surrounded by my people* – those who could REALLY understand how bad I had it. And I left feeling like a jerk, because compared to the adjunct folks, I had it great. Continue reading “built on others’ backs?”

a not for profit post

A friend and I did some shopping yesterday, including a stop at Ten Thousand Villages, which prominently announced underneath its name: “A Not For Profit Store.” This being my first time, I asked my friend, “So, then, what’s the point?” The apparent point is that the money they would make as a profit gets passed along to the people in various developing countries who make the products, so these suppliers make more money than they would otherwise.

Of course, a store with this mission could conduct itself by acting just like a for-profit business, only instead of distributing its profits to its owners passing that money back up the supply chain. However, one way the store makes more money than it otherwise might is that it is staffed by volunteers, and so it operates with lower labor costs. And, of course, the store is able to attract progressively-minded customers and get them to pay a greater markup than they otherwise might because it allows us to spend some of our–in the great scheme of things, let’s be honest, ridiculously undeserved–wealth buying unneeded material goods for others in a way that makes us feel like we are doing something positive for the world. My presumption is that this last source of profit is much greater than the first two for how much money the enterprise is ultimately able to give back to its suppliers in the developing world.

I bought a curio for a friend. The store also sells holiday cards, and I was tempted to buy one and write inside “I could have just given $20 in your name to charity, but instead I got you a $20 knick-knack that you don’t need in the hope that maybe $3 more of it gets back to the person who made it than otherwise would. And let’s face it: you prefer that I got you the knick-knack, and so would I. Sick, is what we are. Sick, bloated and spoiled.” Continue reading “a not for profit post”

maybe the 900-foot jesus told him to go to the bahamas

News today of the son of Oral Roberts, Richard Roberts, president of Oral Roberts University, resigning after accusations that he embezzled funds for such luxury items as a stable of horses and a trip to the Bahamas on the university jet (the university jet?!). Or, I guess it isn’t embezzlement if you just charge it to the university account rather than take the money out and put it into your own account, so we’ll just say “misuse of funds.”

Of course, any story related to Oral Roberts reminds me of his famous vision of a 900-foot Jesus who told him to build a Christian hospital. It also reminds me that I haven’t listened to MC 900 Ft. Jesus in a while, and that naming your band after current events only is cool for a short while.

holiday summary

For a decade, we have “done” Thanksgiving on a pot luck basis with two other families with children about the same age who also do not have family in the area, along with whomever else anyone feels like inviting. The “children” are now 18-27 and some are not in town. This year we had the core group minus three children living out of town plus my children’s partners plus five  friends invited by my daughter, four of whom I had not met before. Dinner was at 5:30, to start after the Packer’s game. We had 16-17 for dinner, depending on how you count the woman who hid upstairs most of the evening. Two tables were set for 8 each. The five of us over 50 sat at one table. The younger generation crowded 11 around the other table. The older folks had a good time chatting and eating and drinking wine. The younger folks ate, chatted, and played games, video and otherwise. Despite generally being of age, most of the younger people abstain from alcohol and instead drink the non-alcoholic sparkling juice that is part of our tradition. One of the guests brought a case of homemade beer that was drunk mostly by him and us oldies.  When I went to bed around midnight, a group of eight (including Miss Shy, who came downstairs after half the guests had left) were still playing “Apples to Apples.” Most everyone seemed to have a pretty good time, although my son ended up feeling pretty bad, due to his Crohn’s disease getting aggravated. I ran two dishwasher loads last night and the rest of the clean up does not look like it will be too bad today.

crime and cranberry sauce

Happy Thanksgiving, all. I was talking to a graduate student the other day who said he likes to call Thanksgiving “Genocide Day.” I replied, “Well, I’m very excited to have my family out here for their first Genocide Day outside of Iowa!”

And, indeed, they did come to Evanston. This was my mother’s first trip to the Chicago area since 1953, when she was 17 and on her honeymoon. As readers of my former blog might remember, my mother’s enjoyment of honeymoon sightseeing was greatly compromised when her father took her aside and said “When you go to Chicago, you look straight ahead. You don’t look at anyone, or you’ll get stabbed.”

When my parents and Sister A arrived on Wednesday, a prim older woman held the elevator for us. We go up, and the doors open. Prim woman gets out and my mom follows. “Mom, this isn’t our floor.” Prim woman turns, and my mom scurries back on to the elevator wailing, “I don’t want to get stabbed!”

Continue reading “crime and cranberry sauce”

why liberals suck (at being liberals)

I like listening to books-on-tape in the car. This is probably because I’m getting older and can’t stand most of the music played for “kids these days” on the radio. I wouldn’t mind listening to more talk radio if I could find someone who shared my biases. Even that darn NPR is too far to the right for me with its nutty journalistic commitment to “balance.” Please! You can’t “balance” the truth with a bunch of lies.

The last couple of weeks I have been making my way through a recorded version of James Carville and Paul Begala’s book, Take it Back. The idea of the book is to call Democrats on the carpet for (1) being wimps that need a backbone transplant, (2) being too darn complicated in their approach to their message, and (3) just generally being intellectually elitist in their attitudes.

That’s a message that the Dems need to be hear, but I’m having trouble getting through the book because its tone is so insufferable. It’s ironic in a way, because despite their attempts to seem all down-homey (the CD starts with some nice banjo playing), they end up being just as condescending as the wimps they’re attacking. It’s also pretty easy to call other people wimps when you don’t have much to lose. And, despite the fact that the most-used phrase in the book is, “It’s simple,” they end up dealing with an extremely wide array of issues that I can’t even keep track of (we’re talking five full-length CD’s).

In the end, these guys end up proving their own point and demonstrate exactly why liberals can’t make it on the talk radio circuit: They’re boring. There are a lot of ways to be boring including getting into complications and details no one can follow, not giving people a take-home sound bite, and just generally yammering on about things people don’t really care about that much. But these guys’ biggest problem is they can’t write or tell a joke that’s worth a damn.

The “best” one I’ve heard so far: “They [the dems] are, in our view, like the proverbial blind people examining the donkey…Hey! We’re Democrats and we can’t very well use an elephant analogy!”

I think if I ever run for president, a good fraction of my campaign budget is going to be used to hire Jay Leno and Jerry Seinfeld to write jokes for me.

happy thanksgiving

A lovely hush has come over the blog, and my email inbox, this Thanksgiving holiday, as all you Americans take a break from your internet duties to (hopefully) remember what we are all working so hard for. Though up north our Thanksgiving is a distant memory (mmm…homemade biscuits…), it is nice to realize why the volume has gone down so suddenly.

While you’re still calmly reflecting on all that you have, and before you start the frenzy of preparations for the next big holiday, why don’t you head over to mom’s fabulous blog to get some great ideas for gifts that are more about bringing joy than developing brand loyalty. After all, there are only 33 more crafting days until Christmas.

allergic to conflict

Yesterday my son (B) – who’s eight – and I waited for an hour and twenty minutes to see a doctor. We weren’t in the emergency room or anything, we hadn’t been triaged to the end of the list. We had an appointment, and the doctor was an allergist.

While we spent some time working on his homework and some taking turns with riddles, we didn’t have nearly enough to entertain us as we waited in the exam room. I lent my son the article I was reviewing and he drew all over the blank sides while I caught up on reading. Soon all the reading was done, there were no clean pages left to draw on, and we were still waiting.

I was annoyed. My son was irate.

Continue reading “allergic to conflict”