sociology news

Three things from the ASA Council Highlights published in Footnotes:

1. “Approved two new sections-in-formation: Sociology of Altruism and Social Solidarity, and Sociology of Body and Embodiment”

2. “2009 Dues: Approved a 4.9% cost of living increase.” [Organizational dues have a “cost of living” increase. Besides which, the inflation rate for 2007 was only like 3%]

3. “2009: Annual Meeting Registration. Approved a $15 increase in all Annual Meeting registration fees.”

ever been to switzerland?

Just as the new year begins I’m off to Zurich for eye surgery. The hope is that I won’t need corneal transplants after this procedure. I’ll be there for a while, and will have some free time on my hands. My parents, brother, and friends are going to stay with me/help as I recover (I’ve rented an apartment). So, to all our Swiss readers out there (if there are any) or to anyone who has spent chucks of time there: any advice on things to do? I’ll have one weekend where I should be well enough to wander about. I’m thinking about heading to Lucerne or Lugano or anywhere. I probably won’t see particularly well. I’ll be taking trains. Any advice?

isn’t it about time for another mario kart party?

No, not yet. You are still on winter break, after all, and then you have to get something in for the ASA. I know! Why not reward ourselves for our good work just after the ASA deadline, say Friday, January 16? Or is that American 3-day weekend going to get in our way? Probably.

Okay, then: Friday, January 23rd, 8pm EST. Who’s with me?

right-side-up again

Back from Australia. It’s true that you get to ride in the front seat of taxis and they say “no worries” a lot. I looked at the Soc Shrine this evening for the first time in a few decades, and they keep making these references to something they call “The Australian” (1, 2, 3, etc.). Like so much else with those scamps over there, I could not figure out what they are referring to.

Regarding movies titled Australia, the idea that Nicole Kidman would go out on a cattle drive with porcelain skin and not be horribly, debilitatingly burned requires a suspension of disbelief on par with believing that actual mutations to human DNA could yield the powers of the X-Men.

Regarding all-text computer games that include many references to Australia, one would have thought getting an A from The Onion was as good as it gets, but then one makes the Top Ten Video Games of 2008 list on Wall Street Journal India’s blog.

new year’s eve

Husband says that each holiday is my favorite, and there is some truth to that (except you, Valentine’s Day–drop dead!). But I especially like the New Year’s holiday, with all its promise to mark the passing of time, remember the good stuff and/or hope for a fresh start.

I would love to celebrate, but do you have any idea how hard it is to find a babysitter for New Year’s Eve? Yikes. All the young babysitters are out, as they can’t stay up that late. The older babysitters are partying themselves, especially up here where youngsters can join us oldsters in bars at only 19. Those in-between are hot commodities, and our go-to guy was booked by the time we asked. Normally, I would have given up there, because really, who needs to stay up past midnight? But this year, a beloved band, Woodhands, is in town, right here in the Hammer. (You may remember them from this summer at the Apple store in Montreal.) They rock, and they are nice, and we really want to go to their show.

And then, behold a New Year’s miracle! a nice gesture from a friend, who offered to host Kid on a sleepover with her kids, whom Kid loves very much. It’s his first sleepover ever, but I am confident it will go well, as Kid’s motto is Have Sheepie, Will Travel.¬† And we’ll even get to go to dinner before the show. Hello, 2009! It’s going to be a good year.

maybe i’m just jealous that my subjects don’t pay me hundreds of thousands to research them

I’ve been reading up on the pharmaceutical industry. First a series of books and now some review articles and literature. As I’ve had more contact with the medical profession, I’ve become more interested it’s inner workings. And for the most part, they are pretty shameful. I’m not speaking here about the everyday practice of medicine, but instead many of our own colleagues in medical schools. The basic story is one of a tight coupling of medical school research and pharmaceutical companies (both schools and researchers have direct financial interests in the products they evaluate). This isn’t a new story; what I find surprising about it is its depth. Marcia Angell has done a good job chronicling it in the NY Review of Books – here, on the pricing, practice and effectiveness of pharmaceuticals, and here, on the ties ties between doctors and companies, a story Angell calls “corruption.” There are two things I find interesting in the latter article (and the pharmaceutical industry in general): first, that modern drugs are much like “cure-all” tonics of days gone by. They get approved by the FDA for one thing, and then they employ a kind of shot-gun method to see if they can get a single study to show it could be used for others – suppressing countervailing evidence in the process.

[It reminds me of this Simpsons episode, which I keep trying to embed, but for some reason it fails every time on wordpress. You can find the video here. I want to embed it because I’m sick of seeing the picture of my last post. For those of you who are also sick of it, I apologize.]

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