guns, dallas, and tyranny

Well, it’s been a long time since I was seen around these parts, but recent events in Dallas, and elsewhere, have driven me to come out of retirement. At least for now. Boy, aren’t you pleased?

Those of you who remember me probably realize that I’m not given to a great deal of subtlety, or tact, or even decent writing. And so, asking me to comment on Black Lives Matter and the shooting of police officers is unlikely to be a good idea. But, then again, in addition to lacking subtlety, tact, and writing skills, I also routinely make poor decisions. For example, I’ve suddenly started blogging again.

I’m not going to talk about racism here, at least not directly. Others can do a better job than I can and, in any event, my own direct experiences of racism leave me unqualified to discuss it. Instead, I’m going to talk a bit about guns, tyranny, and what Dallas tells us about American culture. In my own demented view, anyway.

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Being a heterosexual white male is like playing a video game on “Easy”.

I so wish I could take credit for that observation but it is, in fact, the work of sci-fi author John Scalzi. He doesn’t just mention it as a one-liner, though, but instead takes the whole notion to its logical conclusion:

Continue reading “Being a heterosexual white male is like playing a video game on “Easy”.”

you don’t even want to think about what they do to contractions

Dear Students,

I realize that we’re approaching the end of the semester and I, like all of you, am very tired. Indeed, I feel like a dehydrated man crawling painfully through a desert lusting after the cool, refreshing waters of yon oasis. Granted, yon oasis is, in my case, a mirage since the end of the semester is always punctuated by a hurricane of grading, but I digress. My point is that I understand and, indeed, sympathize with your exhaustion. All that having been said, there is a small matter that we really need to discuss- a problem that I have noticed several times over the course of the semester. A problem that I have actually explicitly addressed with the class as a whole and with several of the more egregious offenders in person. That problem is simply this:

The words that you use to describe the reasoning process? Yeah- they do not mean what you think that they do.
Continue reading “you don’t even want to think about what they do to contractions”

ATL confidential

Okay, so, here’s the thing: we’re going to Atlanta for the ASAs this year. We all know that. And, as with any ASA, there are all kinds of reasons either to go or not to go. I get that. Heck, I often look for good excuses to skip the ASAs. The thing is, though, why do so many of us seem so annoyed about the fact that the ASAs are in Atlanta specifically? Seriously, I’ve lost track of the number of sociologists I’ve heard refer to the city with a sneer in their voice, as though Atlanta is somehow beneath their dignity. But why?
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a bold look for a bold journal

So, like many of you, I recently received the latest issue of the American Sociological Review. This is evidently the first issue to ship from the new editorship and I’m pleased to see that a number of interesting-looking articles are in it. At the same time, I was somewhat surprised by the new look:

That’s definitely a bold change from the sorts of covers we’ve seen previously, and I’m forced to commend the willingness to move in a new direction. And yet, I couldn’t help but feel like I’ve seen this sort of thing somewhere before. Why does this cover seem so familiar?

And then it hit me…
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a thing of beauty

We’ve all had them: those annoying students who arrive to class late, leave early, fall asleep during lectures, and step out of tests so that they can get a big gulp from the local 7-11.* We put up with this bad behavior largely because it comes with the academic territory. Sometimes, though, our less than ideal students choose to chastise us for not allowing them to be even more less than ideal. And sometimes, just sometimes, one of us responds in a way so beautiful, you just have to be impressed. This is one of those times.
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it’s a trap!

“You know, no matter how many votes he garners, Admiral Ackbar is never going to be the mascot.”

“Because it’s Mississippi and it sounds like he’s Arab?”

“No, because of a little thing called ‘copyright.’ There’s no way Lucasfilm would agree to grant the rights.”

“Well, maybe George Lucas will be nice. But then there’d still be the problem that it sounds like he’s Arab.”

“I would think the fact that Ackbar is essentially a fish-man* would put a stop to that. Unless people think that Arabs ARE fish-men, in which case we have a much bigger problem than I thought.”


* Yes, yes, I know: Admiral Ackbar is a Mon Calamari and, therefore, is more of a squid-man. Seriously, give me a break.

ask a scatterbrain: when to give up?

I hate to post another ask a scatterbrain so soon after Andrew’s rather solid example, but I have a related issue. When my students prepare for their final exams I often tabulate how well each would have to do on the final in order to get an A, B, C, or D for the course as a whole. Normally this is a fairly uncontroversial process for me and students often appreciate the concrete knowledge. This semester, though, I have a student who will have to earn a grade on the final that is several letter grades higher than s/he has ever achieved on a test in order to pass the course at all. This student has also not asked me to tell them about their situation. Now, I am certainly hoping that the student manages to pass, but I’ve started wondering: if you have a student who can’t pass even if they get a perfect score on the final, is it appropriate to tell them not to bother taking it? On the one hand it seems like you’d be doing them a favor by telling them, if only so that they can devote more energy to other classes. On the other hand, it just seems wrong somehow. Again, my student does have a chance so I think s/he should take the final, but I’m curious whether anyone has ever tackled a situation like this before.