things i find interesting

Bees might as well be dancing in the dark. Why? No one cares when they do. I feel their pain. They’re also dying off at an alarming rate. Which has me really worried. I seriously have been up at night thinking about it (apparently they are responsible for the reproduction of about 1/3 of the crops we eat). So are bats (dying off, that is). Which means more bugs. If you’re riding the Japanese subway, watch out for the Smile-Manner Squadron. Elias would be proud. Or at least he’d have something to say. And finally, I’m obsessed with calculating and re-calculating my carbon footprint (you can too!). This is yet another way I can feel better than other people because I live in NYC (no car, small apartment, etc.). However, I realize that two things explain my footprint: going out to eat, drink, and be merry, and flying. I’m not really willing to give up any of these things. Which makes me feel bad. Because though my footprint is relatively low, it’s well above the world target. Other websites suggest that I just write a check and feel better about it. But that strikes me as not a great solution. So I guess I’ve decided to neither write a check nor do anything about it. Which is even worse.

i’m not sure how many of you caught this…

I have been cutting back on my “informed citizen” time recently in attempts to get my work done. So somehow I missed what Bush said on the 5th anniversary of the war. In a video conference to troops in Afghanistan, Bush told troops,

I must say, I’m a little envious. If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed. It must be exciting for you … in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger. You’re really making history, and thanks.

I promise. I’m not making this up. I know we’re not a political blog. But this I just couldn’t let go. Seriously? Describing war as “romantic” and a “fantastic experience”? Seriously? Dear Mr. Bush: If you’re so “envious” why is it that when you were younger and COULD go to war (remember Vietnam?), you didn’t? I can’t wait

family, life

Real life is like a Kurt Vonnegut novel. You know, you are going along living your life, and suddenly you get popped over into another life. I’m out in California, spending the week with my mother, who in February found herself invalid, on oxygen and very weak, needing a walker to get around the house. She has pulmonary fibrosis and the prognosis is unclear. She was hit with an infection that laid her low, and she might be able to get back to relative independence. And she might not. A year ago she was still taking several international trips a year, and six months ago she was still running around and taking domestic trips. For me, it’s being transported from the world where I am way behind in my writing, have papers to grade and still don’t have the taxes done to another place where there isn’t really that much to do, just hang out and be ready to offer occasional assistance.

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as long as we’re talking about television…

I guess it’s time to go public with this: After hundreds of hours of behind-the-scenes lobbying and deliberation, Scatterplot has decided to endorse David Cook in this year’s American Idol race, in a show of solidarity with all those who are simultaneously sort-of-goofy-looking and sort-of-alt.Ally.Sheedy-looking (here, doing “Hello” better than the original version).  There was also much support for the Irish woman with the husband with tattoos on his face (here, doing “Crazy on You” better than the original version; meanwhile, you can see the husband 20 seconds in on this clip), but we decided we can’t deal with how she’s already had two big-ticket chances at pop stardom already, with a different last name (here, age 18, Hollywood) and a different first and last name (here, age 16, Canada).

dear fellow academics

Recently I have had a series of conversations with a pretty wide variety of people about what they like and dislike about scatterplot, sociology, and academia more generally. For now, let me focus on what people like. The acknowledgment that we watch TV comes up again again (here and here are examples, even if we worry about it). In short, what lots of folks tell me is they are happy when we seem like actual humans, and not simply people who are huddled up in an academic monastery. Therefore, let me publicly affirm what I have been privately conveying to others.

1.) I watch television. I make no apologies about this. It does not make me a worse academic or a worse person.
2.) I sometimes think about quitting. More than sometimes really. Often it is daily. This does not mean that I hate sociology, or my work (although at times I do). For all its rewards, our job is taxing. Particularly taxing is the sense that I am never done. This makes me want to quit. And I entertain the idea.
3.) I take days off. Sometimes I take multiple consecutive days off. I am not necessarily doing anything productive on these days (I am not bettering myself by going to art museums or traveling around Europe). Sometimes I choose not to leave my apartment on these days. I order in food and watch movies or catch up on watching TV (see #1).
4.) I feel anxious about my work almost all the time. That it’s not good enough. That I’m a fraud. That I should be doing more of it. That it will never be done (see #2).

So if you feel the same way, I’m just here to say, you’re not alone. Wow. That was cathartic. It may not be smart to reveal these things on such a public forum. But I think that by collectively denying them we make it worse for all of us. You may not be in completely the same boat as I, but I suspect there are some similarities for all of us. Now I’m nervous that I wrote this (see #4). Anyone else in my club?

first person narrative in scholarship

 (it took me a day before I realized I violated Jeremy’s no caps rule)

I am sort of a lawyer, and I read a lot of law blogs. One of the never-ending debates in legal scholarship is the use of first-person narrative in legal scholarship.  First person narrative, or “storytelling,” is one of the principal methodologies of Critical Race Theory, a scholarly movement that has an anti-discrimination project and through its lense and methodology attempts to speak for “voices from the bottom.” 

 Enough background.  The debate over first-person narrative is back, or at least Paul Secunda, a legal scholar in employment and labor law, asks the following question at Concurring Opinions:

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neither of which are for the faint of heart

1. Tuesday’s Obama bender culminated the latest round in my ongoing worry about my control over my use of the Internet–as I’ve said, sometimes I feel like an alcoholic whose job requires him to work in a bar–and so I installed LeechBlock to break my ability to read news sites or blogs from the office. You can set it to shut you out either for a specific range of hours during the day or to shut off after you’ve spent a particular amount of time browsing the sites you list (e.g., *.wordpress.com). LeechBlock also has the attractive feature that you can set options to make it more cumbersome to deactivate when you are jonesing to surf. (It’s a Firefox extension, and I deleted Internet Explorer so I wouldn’t be able to circumvent it using a second browser.)

2. I don’t remember who recommended “Dexter” as a TV show for me to watch while I am on my elliptical trainer, but I was excited at the prospect of a recommended show I knew nothing about. So I plunked down $25 and bought it on iTunes. I started watching it tonight and the first few minutes were this man who I take to be the protagonist abducting and torturing someone. Not only did I stop watching it, but I quit doing the elliptical trainer and just curled up on my futon with a book. I recognize that my reference to Buffy the Vampire Slayer might have given an incorrect impression of my tastes for while I am trying to exercise.

orgtheory.net is scared of us

omar.jpg

I recently attended a research talk by one of our good friends from orgtheory.net. I was introducing the speaker and therefore got close enough to the powerpoint to read the fine print on the opening slide. (Apologies for the two-piece picture, but the cell phone camera has its limitations). In case you can’t make it out, it says “Warning: You may only blog about this talk if you are going to say nice things about it.”* Since I wasn’t aware of any bloggers in the audience other than me and one other scatterbrain, I had to conclude that the speaker was referring to us and was afraid of what we might say about his talk on scatterplot!

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* To fulfill the implicitly agreed-upon contract implied by this warning, I will say that the talk was excellent, even outstanding, as we have come to expect from those org heads.

how most of us live; ask a scatterbrain

Here is a suggestion that emerged from olderwoman about our ask a scatterbrain series. This emerged as some had expressed that the series was anxiety producing. Ane one of the causes of this was that the advice often seemed to come from folks at the “top 20” – where few sociologists actually are (and few want to be!). So, our question of the week:

What can folks from the small liberal arts colleges and the state schools that are not “top 20″ departments (or not PhD programs) tell me about how things work in their departments and how I might go about being prepared to get such a job and succeed in such a job? Or another useful thread might be to encourage folks to post topics and themes that arise from the experiences in non-PhD programs.