The task force report on addressing racial disparities in criminal justice is now officially done and voted on. Hurrah! There was a sense of euphoria, I think. I felt it . Some of us talked about how we really need a party. The head of the public defender’s office offered her home for this purpose for  next month, although I don’t know whether it will actually happen. The last few weeks have been very intense and conflictual. I’ve drafted several partial posts about some of the conflicts and issues, but couldn’t get them into a state to post, partly because I was too darned busy trying to catch up on everything else I should be doing. The events involved crying, shouting, confrontations between “system” people concerned about being made to sound bad or worried about being told to do things that are just impossible and “community” people wanting their voices and perspectives heard. Also glaring examples of racial/ethnic cultural differences and the huge effect of standpoint. The past three rounds of meetings have involved people proposing changes to the report to bring it into line to something they could vote for. Several key compromises were worked out. I bailed out of the writing committee after the last round — I just had to do my course preparation and other work. The chairs just hung in to the bitter in, accepting and processing proposed changes and trying to get a consensus document pulled together. I’ve worried that the watered down the voices of the oppressed too much, but the compromises saved the “public hearing” section, in which people’s stories are told, albeit with language reminding people that they are unverified stories from particular individuals. Continue reading “done”

a note to kieran

The Irish census of 1911 is online. Wonderful stuff. Not that you’d care to follow the links, but I was able to find my grandmother’s family. Her father, Mike, wasn’t yet married. As well as my grandfater’s family. He was seven years from being born. But there’s my great, great granddather, Thomas, aged 80 (born 1831). Nice to see the handwriting, and that young children are referred to as being occupied as “scholars” when they are in school! If any other readers have family who lived in Ireland back then, you might be able to find them. The census is all on-line, here:

glad that’s out of the way

Most teaching days are what I would label “adequate.” They’re not spectacular, they’re not horrible, they’re just fine. Other days are great- days when you can tell the students are really connecting with what you’re saying and you know you’re presenting it well. Then, you have the other days. The lousy teaching days when things just don’t seem to come out right. And it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve presented a particular lecture- every so often, you’re just going to be terrible.

Today I had my first Bad Teaching Day of the semester. I came, I saw, I really, really blew. At least now I can stop worrying about it.

uk apologizes for treatment of gay war hero, alan turing

Fifty-five years after Alan Turing committed suicide, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologized for Britain’s treatment of him. Turing was a mathematical genius, who broke Hitler’s code in World War II, unscrambling thousands of messages with military secrets and aiding the Allied efforts enormously. Turing was also homosexual, and in 1952 he was convicted of gross indecency for having consensual sex with another man. Faced with a choice between imprisonment and chemical castration, Turing chose the latter. He killed himself two years later.

“The debt of gratitude he is owed makes it all the more horrifying, therefore, that he was treated so inhumanely,” Brown said. “We’re sorry, you deserved so much better.”

adventures in addiction

I left my apartment today, stepped into a cab to go across town and discovered, to my horror, that I had left my cell phone at home. I lived most of my life without a cell phone. I didn’t need to make any calls. I didn’t really need it at all. But the panic I felt at missing it was much like I’d imagine I’d feel if I discovered I’d left home without putting my pants on. Somehow I made it through the day. And I as reclaimed my precious this evening upon returning home, I felt, well, both an immense relief, and, pathetic.

go buy some damn sand, already

I live in an awesome old neighbourhood with lots of kids and a tiny park that connects my street with the next street over. It’s a great place to gather, and in good weather, sometimes it seems like the whole neighbourhood is out there. Of course, being Canada, we also flood an ice rink over the grass in the winter, this being a distinctly manly job for the dads – real fire hoses are involved. It is not uncommon for people to put toys out in the park to share, and for quite a while now, there have been two sandboxes with shovels and such that people have decided to share with everyone.

Here’s the thing: there isn’t any sand in them anymore. Continue reading “go buy some damn sand, already”

fifteen minutes turns weird

Last week I wrote about the strange public career of an article I was part of. Now for the next chapter – John Tierney blogged about it in his NYT science blog about, of all things, who was first to reach the North Pole! The connection is tenuous, to say the least, and frankly it seems like it’s Tierney doing the motivated reasoning to make a rather disparate relationship seem relevant. (BTW he also got the venue wrong – it’s Sociological Inquiry, not Sociological Quarterly.)

checking tables

Reviewing articles makes me realize that people (including people who appear to be otherwise quite sophisticated in their methods) don’t know how to read tables for error and instability.  Obviously, I just found a zinger. Details suppressed in the interest of the integrity of the peer review process. But if the author had really looked carefully at the tables instead of just coming up with stories to explain the coefficients, s/he should have realized something was amiss. (What follows is a didactic exposition that will probably bore or annoy many of you, but perhaps may help a few. If you have your own pet peeves about this, drop a comment.) Continue reading “checking tables”

harvard now sells clothes

Want to dress like a Harvard Man? Well, now you can, without ever having to pay $200,000 for your diploma. All you need is $165 for an Oxford Shirt, or $495 for a sports coat. In plaid, of course. With your white linen pants, your boat shoes (no socks!) and a bow tie, you’ll be all the preppy rage in your “Harvard Yard.”

“It’s a modern rendition of a classic American heritage,” said John Fowler, the creative director. “We want to combine the power of Harvard with the power of a plaid shirt.”

Awesome. As the NYTimes article points out, there’s nothing new about hocking clothes. But given the exclusionary history of preppies, there is something a little weirder and problematic about this. But when you look this good, who’s to complain? Which reminds me, ’tis the season to break out my man-purse.


adventures is alphabetization

So, with the amazing aid of work study students, my books are now alphabetized! The only catch is that the two folks doing the work did it differently. One, as you would expect. The other in the oddest way I can imagine. Instead of going from left to right on my shelves, my books are organized from right to left. But only within starting letter. So the starting letters themselves are organized left to right. Confused? Yeah, so was I. I cannot help but wonder in what world this kind of organization makes sense. Now my books, A-J are arranged in such a way that I will never find anything. And K-Z in a way that I will. I wonder how this will influence what I’m likely to look at for a reference. I guess this means that Bourdieu is now gone from my life. Everything’s coming up Parsons!

i’m blogging in the chronicle

A few months ago, I had a blow out because I was asked to review 8 articles in one month. This resulted not in a review, but rather a blog post. Shortly thereafter, I started receiving inquiries from the American Sociological Association’s offices encouraging me to submit the piece to our disciplinary newsletter, Footnotes. The final of these also suggested that the Chronicle might be interested–not a bad idea, I thought. So, I proceeded, and found out along the way that they have to have exclusive rights for a period–and so I pulled the blog entry.

Turns out, they really liked it. Whodda thunk? The “essay,” called “The Peer Review System is Broken” came out yesterday in the Chronicle Review Section. Hope you get a chance to read it. If your institution has paid enough money, you may be able to read it here.

Even better, they liked it so much that they’ve invited me to write 2-3 essays per year for them! Wow–maybe getting ticked off does pay! I’m taking suggestions for the topic of my next rant…

it’s a start

We sociologists often express the desire that people pay more attention to us. Fair enough, but I think we might want to be a little more specific about that. Last night my wife and I were watching an episode of the new series “Defying Gravity” online.* At one point a character, referring to a baby rabbit she wanted help with, said:

Just think of it as a sociology project- people bonding with pets in space.

And suddenly I realized that the writers have evidently been keeping track of ASA sections** and sections-in-formation.

* If anyone is curious, I think the show has potential but it isn't really "there" yet. I would also advise that, if you watch it, you be prepared to deal with a truly maddening mixture of good science and badly thought out science.

** Has anyone else noticed that the logo for the Animals and Society section makes it looks like the man has eaten a cat?

moved in!

I’m in my new office today. Let the productivity begin. Then again, I have to unpack my boxes. So that might take a day. To categorize and alphabetize my books, or not. That is the question. I didn’t in my last office, and within a couple weeks I knew where everything was. So the reward isn’t quite clear. Then again, I’m anal. It will annoy me, as it always did.