ask a scatterbrain: how do you get your book taught?

From a faithful reader. Here’s a question for those who have published books: What are the most effective things you or your publisher did to get your book picked up in classes? Are there things you wish you had done, or things that you thought would pay off but probably didn’t? (Likewise, experiences from the other side — what have authors or publishers done that influenced your decision, in either direction, to teach their book — would be useful.)

Also, what’s a “normal” print run for an academic sociology book? (i.e., a sociology book that isn’t Gang Leader for a Day, etc)

amazon censors lgbt books

So a few folks have sent me notes about this. Basically, Amazon changed the way it “ranks” sales recently, and decided not to rank products that are “Adult”. So what, you might ask, is “adult”? The answer, it turns out, is anything gay. You can check out a list of de-ranked books here; they include the works of James Baldwin, Edmund White, EM Forster, Annie Proulx, Jeanette Winterson, etc. This has been happening for months. But rather than own up to it, Amazon is lamely suggesting that it’s a new “glitch”. A great critique of this is available in two great images. I guess according to Amazon, anything gay is pornography; anything straight, well, that’s just the way things are.


I was reflecting even before church about some of the hard things parents have had to do, and then the minister brought up one of them in a wonderful Easter sermon. Here are the things I was thinking about: (1) The parents who paid for and accompanied their adult child overseas to get sex change surgery and have been supportive even as they have had to work through their own confusion and grief over the loss of the son they once had and their fears about their new daughter’s quite serious other health problems. (2) The father whose son murdered his daughter, who has stayed connected with his imprisoned son even as he lives in the depths of grief and anger about the loss of his daughter and the enormity of his son’s crime, and others’ anger at him for staying connected with his son. (This father is the minister’s brother-in-law.) (3) The parents whose son died in an automobile crash this year, who have had the courage to embrace the depths of their sorrow and to go on living without him. (4) The parents who are respecting an adult child’s wish to have no contact with them, even as it breaks their hearts and they don’t know what is wrong. Continue reading “parenting”

a sad piece of history

This story comes from the BBC. It gives an account of how, upon requesting that French troops be allowed to lead the liberation of Paris during the second world war, de Gaulle was given a condition by American and British forces: make sure those who entered Paris were all white. The victory should seen as a “whites only” victory. Eisenhower’s chief of staff, Major General Walter Bedell Smith, wrote to de Gaulle, “It is more desirable that the division mentioned above consist of white personnel.” General Frederick Morgan of Britain concurred, “I have told Colonel de Chevene that his chances of getting what he wants will be vastly improved if he can produce a white infantry division.” The problem for France (beyond, of course, the moral one) was that less than 40% of French troops were white. Most were Africans from colonies. Rather than be rewarded for freeing France, most were immediately deported back home. Gives a new sense of what what it meant for France to be “free” and how the US military was deeply interested in and committed to racism even while fighting the second World War.

really cool graphs

So, somewhat in response to OW’s post, I give you Gapminder. It produces really amazing graphs. Seriously. Click on “explore the world.” And then explore. I think it’s super cool (WOW is it cool). I saw this by watching a video by its founder, Hans Rosling, present at TED. Laying aside what I think of his accounts of poverty, I say to you, this is the future of presenting graphs! Google bought Gapminder. You can upload data to it. Check it out! Warning: you may waste lots of time here. But it’s time worth wasting.

public service message

If you run into a cougar, your safest bet is to run. This is particularly the case, “if you are in a situation that allows you to run in a surefooted fashion with even strides — for instance, on dry, flat ground rather than uneven, rocky terrain or deep snow.” I am not responsible if you take this advice and things turn out badly. Blame the folks at Anthrozoos: A Multidisciplinary Journal of the Interactions of People & Animals.


Ksiler, we have an answer to your question. Vermont legalizes same-sex marriage.

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — Vermont has become the fourth state to legalize gay marriage — and the first to do so with a legislature’s vote.

The Legislature voted Tuesday to override Gov. Jim Douglas’ veto of a bill allowing gays and lesbians to marry. The vote was 23-5 to override in the state Senate and 100-49 to override in the House. Under Vermont law, two-thirds of each chamber had to vote for override.

It is interesting how Vermont turned from a reluctant leader on this issue to a state very proud of its lesbian and gay rights record. As Kyle points out in his comment, the original vote was one short of veto-proof, so someone stepped forward to embrace this bill in the second round.

lots of tables?

Let me be very clear what I’m asking. This is about tables of means, lots of them, 65 – 100 pages of them, integrated with explanatory text. Most social scientists don’t do this kind of stuff, but I do in my “public sociology” work. I need to generate reports that integrate text with LOTS of tables of means cross-classified by race, offense, geographic location, type of statistic. I need to be able to control what headers get put on columns and I need to have every table be output with enough information to be absolutely sure what it is. I have a lot of better things to do with my time than spending hours merging files and reformatting tables.  I really need to automate this stuff. I use Stata, I love Stata, but I’m about ready to kill either myself or Stata. Continue reading “lots of tables?”

drek, this contest is for you

Poor Drek, besotted with argumentative conspiracy theorists and burdened by his duties as one of only a handful of sociology royalty. He is surely on the path to madness as he struggles against Conservapedians. But, alas, a contest worthy of Drek’s passion and matched to his artistic skills. I give you, Drek, the Stick Figure Science Contest:

Your job is to create a cartoon that can be used to educate the general public and especially decision makers (state legislators, school board members) about the truth behind one false argument. Choose an argument …and create a cartoon that corrects the record.

Go, Drek, Go! Take your sharpened pencil and sketch up some science! We await your xkcd-like masterpiece.

ask a scatterbrain: how do you do a lit review

From a lurker: something we all have to do but are rarely taught about is constructing a literature review. Any strategies out there? Our reader provides some VERY HELPFUL strategies (after the break). But further suggestions from you would would be much appreciated! For me, one of the central questions here is not just how to do this, but how to decide what literature is the best literature to situate your project within. This isn’t always as obvious as it seems it should be. My advice: when doing a lit review for a project, it is often very helpful to know what your data say. I often write introductions last, after all the other work is done. So projects often start with lit reviews. But in my experience these are radically re-worked once you’ve gotten your hands dirty with the data. More practical suggestions after the break: Continue reading “ask a scatterbrain: how do you do a lit review”

ask a scatterbrain: book series vs. general sociology

A reader asks:

Given the choice, is it better to have a book published by a publisher who would place the book in a series (edited by scholars from a related discipline, not sociology), or one who would place it in the general sociology list?    Assuming the presses are quite comparable in terms of reputation and the contract terms are similar, etc.  — which would you choose and why?

air fare madness

I’ve seen this a lot before.  I live in a small midwestern city that is served by several airlines. I’m pricing air fares to Europe. From my city to Amsterdam via Minneapolis on Northwest is $226 CHEAPER than the Minneapolis – Amsterdam ticket for the same flight.  From my city to Amsterdam on Northwest via Detroit is $150 – $200 cheaper, depending on the flight. This benefits me so I’m not complaining, but a negative relation between cost and price is insanity, even if it is easily explained by the logic of captive markets and near-monopolies in hub cities.

iowa finds same-sex marriage ban unconstitutional

Dispatch from everyone’s favorite state, Iowa:

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — The Iowa Supreme Court says the state’s same-sex marriage ban violates the constitutional rights of gay and lesbian couples, making it the third state where gay marriage is legal.

Did You Know: Iowa City was one of the first municipalities in the United States to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation?* Also, Iowa’s recently implemented statewide law bans discrimination on the basis of both sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.**

* Button, James W., Barbara A. Rienzo, and Kenneth D. Wald. 1997. Private Lives, Public Conflicts: Battles over Gay Rights in American Communities. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press.

**NGLTF Issue Maps

(thx, Addy)