guess who wrote this

From someone I never would have guessed:

Some conservatives believe that the depression is the result of unwise government policies. I believe it is a market failure. The government’s myopia, passivity, and blunders played a critical role in allowing the recession to balloon into a depression, and so have several fortuitous factors. But without any government regulation of the financial industry, the economy would still, in all likelihood, be in a depression; what we have learned from the depression has shown that we need a more active and intelligent government to keep our model of a capitalist economy from running off the rails. The movement to deregulate the financial industry went too far by exaggerating the resilience—the self-healing powers—of laissez-faire capitalism.

Answer here. I found the quote in this essay by Robert Solow, which is quite good.

letter vetter.

Like most of you, I’m sure, I write a fair number of recommendation letters for students. The vast majority are for internal programs (usually study abroad) because such things abound at this university. However, I still write a number of letters for fellowships, summer programs, graduate schools, and so forth.

Never ever have I been asked to share these letters with anyone. However, today I got an email from a colleague (outside of my department, who I don’t know personally) who told me that a letter I’m currently working on must be approved by her office before it goes out. Is this common practice?

I’ve felt pressure before – wondering if my students’ success hinges on the quality of my letter – but the pressure (tinged with outrage) that I feel this time is qualitatively different.

ask a scatterbrain: parallels

A PC user is thinking about making the switch to Mac. Because all the qualitative analysis software, such as Nvivo and Atlas, works only on Windows, this person is planning to use Parallels to run Windows on her Mac. Any insight out there about how well this works, whether there are unforeseen oddities or headaches? On the quantitative side, she is used to running Stata on a PC. Should she switch to Stata for the Mac or plan to run it through Windows like she’s always done?

things we like.

I don’t talk about sociology all that much given that I’m a soc blogger. This is basically for two reasons: (1) talking about my professional ups-and-downs might give away my sub-area and, thereby, my mild-mannered alter ego and, (2) I spend so much of my time writing about my professional work anyway, why on earth would I make it my hobby to write about my professional work? I mean, seriously, I love the… er… dedication of the orgheads, but if I didn’t blog about zombies now and then my work time would be much less productive.

The side effect of all this, however, is that it may sometimes appear like I don’t enjoy my job very much. Nothing, as it happens, could be further from the truth. I love my job. I enjoy going into the office to do it. I can’t imagine doing anything else. It’s just that I don’t talk about what I’m doing that much and, when I do, am more likely to be complaining about something that’s bugging me. Such, I think, is human nature.

So on the hunch that some of you are the same way, I want to pose a little activity: tell us a little about what it is that you love about sociology. What keeps you fired up about the job? I mean, you’re here, you’re still doing it- it’s got to be because you love it, you don’t hate it, or you’re trapped in by simple path dependence. So what’s the deal, scatterbrains and scatterfans?
Continue reading “things we like.”

qualitative research

So there has been a bit of a debate going on in qualitative circles about funding qualitative research projects. The NSF report “Workshop on Interdisciplinary Standards for Systematic Qualitative Research”  recently was released. A follow-up from an earlier commission, this report is meant to serve as a guide for qualitative researchers on how to get funding. It was produced by a group of top qualitative scholars. Then Howard Becker wrote a response. The response is a charged critique of the NSF commission, led by Michele Lamont*. Continue reading “qualitative research”

mom, who were the first people in the world?

And thus began Kid’s immersion into evolution, a couple months ago in the car on the way to swim class. And I knew I’d love teaching Kid about evolution–it’s possible that Husband thinks I am too excited about it–but what I didn’t see coming is how much Kid loves it, too. Why? First, because there are dinosaurs. Kid loves dinosaurs. And second, because it’s about him. Kid loves stories about him. And a story that puts him and T-Rex into the same family tree? That is golden.

I’m no evolutionary biologist, though, so I knew I needed some help. Continue reading “mom, who were the first people in the world?”

public hearing

My recent posts may make it appear that all I’m doing is writing Stata code. That would be only half true. Apart from some personal issues I can’t write about (because they involve other people) and trying to remember how to write sociology, I’ve been at a LOT of meetings for the disparities task force. One of the public hearings was last week. Away from the computer and out into the heartbreak of real life. As I expected, we heard stories of unfair police treatment, including mass ticketing of Latinos for playing music in the park, A Latino guy who says he has been here 20 years but things have gotten much worse in the past two years, and one guy who was basically claiming he had been framed by police on a drug charge (his story was quite specific about what he said happened) whose testimony led a lawyer on the panel to caution him that he should be careful about what he said about a case that had not been adjudicated yet. I had not expected to hear about ICE [immigration] raids here: I guess I have not been paying attention.   People saying they are police knock on the door and ask to come in; once in they announce they are ICE and haul people off to the ICE holding center 90 miles away to be held for deportation hearings. Tearful women speak in English and Spanish (there is an interpreter): we are here, we have been here twenty years, we are working, we are law abiding, we pay taxes, what about our children who were born here and went to school here, what will happen to them if we are deported, if their fathers are deported? There is also concern that any Latino picked up for any law violation (no matter how small) is taken downtown and run through ICE. Many minor offenses turn into deportations. Suggestions from public officials that they are holding closed-door negotiations trying to deal with these issues and a lot of “could you talk to us privately later?” statements from activists. Continue reading “public hearing”

cumulative frequency in stata

This would have saved me HOURS of work several months ago.  Where I grew up, the word “sum” means “add things up.” In Stata, it turns out, as a generate function it means what Stata-speakers call a “running sum” — a term I have never heard or used although I do speak about the running total in my bank account — and what I was always taught to call a “cumulative frequency.” The egen sum function I have been using is REALLY named “total”: if you use “sum” in egen, it works as an undocumented alias to total.  I can only guess that this generate function got named “sum” because the obvious abbreviation for a cumulative frequency is an obscene word, but if you look up sum in the Statalist threads, you’ll see that many people assume that the function does what the word means and this mis-naming is a source of endless confusion. In fact, the regular posters (with no apparent sense of irony) call this the most under-utilized function in Stata.  Do you suppose mis-naming it might have something to do with this? Cumsum or, if you are squeamish, runsum, would have been a better name. Even better cross-referencing in the help files would improve documentation. If you search “cumulative” inside Stata, the function does not come up (probably because the word cumulative is never used in its description). The closest you can get is in the second page of the hits, where you’ll get this FAQ: ” How do I tabulate cumulative frequencies?” and a link to: http://www.stata.com/support/faqs/data/tabdisp.html

i wonder why things went wrong?

I’m reading on structured finance and credit rating agencies. Here’s a great moment from Moody’s, a rating agency.

Moody’s has no obligation to perform, and does not perform, due diligence with respect to the accuracy of information it receives or obtains in connection with the rating process. Moody’s does not independently verify any such information. Nor does Moody’s audit or otherwise undertake to determine that such information is complete. Thus, in assigning a Credit Rating, Moody’s is in no way providing a guarantee or any kind of assurance with regard to the accuracy, timeliness, or completeness of factual information reflected, or contained, in the Credit Rating or any related Moody’s publication. (Moody’s Investor Service, Code of Professional Conduct 6)

One might reasonably ask, then, “what DO you do?”

it was a lovely week, really

Despite my last post, life here in Fetnerville has been quite enjoyable lately. Given that our usual excitement consists of looking for worms after a rainstorm and watching Kid buckle his own seatbelt, it is tough to imagine so much happening in just a few days. We missed Easter completely, though throughout the weekend I was optimistic–“Husband, don’t let me forget to go to the grocery store. We need potatoes and veg.” I even defrosted the tofurky. Alas, it is still in the fridge. Continue reading “it was a lovely week, really”

inequality on crooked timber

Is everyone paying attention to the excellent series of posts on inequality and how to reduce it by Lane Kenworthy over on Crooked Timber? It’s very interesting. If the ManlyManStompGruntCrushKill comment thread over there is a little much for your delicate sensibilities, try reading the same posts from his own blog, where the discussion is much more civilized.

if you’re in new york

Come to one of these Spring Dinners. They are multi-course dinners celebrating Spring Bounty and Foraged Foods, May 15, 17 and 18, 2009. There will be local lamb, foraged roots and shoots (from Wild Organics), early harvests (from Added Value), and New York-brewed beer. Support will go to Added Value, a group that turns vacant urban lots into community gardens, and works with local teens on producing sustainable food. Check them out; they’re awesome. Tickets are available here. They’re $65-80. The food should be good (got a great review in the NY Times and Gourmet Magazine last time!) and the company enjoyable. What’s not to like about hanging out with folks on rooftops, in scratch kitchens, and at urban farms? Oh, and yours truly might be making a dish or two. I’m looking forward to having my old food collective and wonderful friends back in town… That and getting behind a stove. It’s been too long.