So researchers have recently advanced the claim that one reason why males in many societies have shorter life spans than females is because males have genes that kill us off quicker. And you always thought it was our love of chili fries! The basic outline seems to be that males are evolved to expend more energy developing larger more powerful bodies and that inflicts a cost on us biologically. Or, to be slightly more rigorous, I’ll quote from the article:
Continue reading “non-sequitur”

so far, so good…

Unexpectedly, my wife and I lucked into receiving H1N1 vaccines yesterday. I say “lucked into” because it was pretty much exactly that- we were receiving treatment for an unrelated issue, got to talking with the professionals and discovered that they had both doses and the inclination to use them. The purpose of this post is not to brag- particularly given that there’s no point bragging about dumb luck- but rather to make an observation:

So far, as a result of the H1N1 vaccine, we have NOT had strokes, heart attacks, neurological distress, developed autism, died, or been forced to only walk backwards. So far, side effects for us DO include: soreness at the injection site and, in my case, a mild headache and some muscle aches. And frankly even that may not be due to the vaccine since I was doing some major yard work yesterday evening and may just be stiff from that.

So, just to counter-balance the Jenny McCarthy’s of the world, allow me to state as plainly as possible: we have been vaccinated against H1N1 and we are perfectly fine.

That is all.

fool me once, shame on you…

So a while back I submitted an article to a journal, which we shall call the Drekistan Journal of Sociology.* In the meantime, as the months have gone by with the wheels of publication grinding inexorably onward at their usual glacial pace, I was tagged for two reviews by the same journal. I completed both reviews and submitted them as a good little hopeful journal publishee should and went about my business.

A few weeks ago an e-mail popped up in my inbox from DJS that included the phrase “notification of decision.” My pulse pounded, my blood warmed, I felt all feverish, and images of both success and failure swirled through my brain in a very close approximation of Schrodinger’s feline companion. And then I noticed that the full subject line was “Reviewer notification of decision”. Yeah, it was just the journal letting me know how things turned out with a paper I reviewed.

I got on with my life, continued with other projects, and time wore on until yesterday I received another e-mail from DJS. My pulse pounded, my blood warmed, I felt all feverish, I hesitated over opening the message. And then I noticed the same thing. It was a reviewer notification of decision. This time around my verbal response to this let-down was such that I cannot repeat it on a fine and elegantly crafted blog such as this.

Honestly I don’t know what should bug me more: that I over-reacted the same way twice, or that two papers I’ve reviewed since submitting my own have gotten decisions before me.

* Not its real name.

i like to imagine it went something like this…

“It is an honor just to be nominated, but I am happy to see the award go to one of the other many deserving candidates who have worked so hard to improve our world. I, of course, hope to build a better world that does not include that scourge of our peace of mind, nuclear weaponry, but my efforts have only just begun, whereas many others have been laboring for peace for many decades. As my Presidency continues I hope to take action that will- wait, what? Um, seriously? I just won a Nobel Peace Prize? Geez, why? I… I mean, thanks?”

As a side note: yes, I know President Obama was told when we woke up. Still, I think the above about captures it. Not that I don't like Obama- or at least like him better than McCain and/or Palin- but it seems a tad early for a peace prize. What's he going to do for an encore? Cure cancer? Actually, that would be pretty rockin.

As an additional side note: The goons on Conservapedia are going to go berserk over this one. Although, that said, they've pretty much abandoned all pretense of fairness anyway.

i wonder how they got it to sign the consent form?

Fellow sociologists: have you ever been teaching a class and have felt the need to explain to students that while scientific research is generally a reliable way to gather knowledge, we have to be very careful not to trust our results too much? Have you ever wanted a great example to show why alpha error is a problem, and to explain why findings sometimes have to be considered provisional? Sure, we all have! Only now, I have a way to help. And do you want to know what the best part is?

It involves the brain of a dead fish.
Continue reading “i wonder how they got it to sign the consent form?”


So like many universities around the country, mine is presently freaking out about H1N1. I’m mostly okay with this since I figure anything that helps keep us from getting sick with every single bacterial and viral passenger our students acquired during the summer has to be a good thing. I’ll admit though that the constant mass e-mails telling us that we don’t have anything to worry about from the Swine Flu are starting to have the opposite effect. Pardon me for having an Othello moment, but methinks they doth protest too much!

The most entertaining part, however, are the perhaps unintentional messages that certain public service announcements are sending.
Continue reading “subtlety”

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.

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?

i am, apparently, ahead of my time

Some of you who share my fondness for all things zombie may be excited to know that your interests are no longer- technically speaking- purely a hobby. Instead, it’s now possible to regard the study of zombies as an intellectual contribution. Am I kidding? Not at all, because I recently became aware of a new book titled, “Infectious Disease Modelling Research Progress.” What does that have to do with zombies? Seemingly nothing, until you notice that chapter four is titled, “When Zombies Attack!: Mathematical Modelling of an Outbreak of Zombie Infection.” Seriously.
Continue reading “i am, apparently, ahead of my time”

sadly, no last day discounts

Today I found myself wandering through the ASA book fair- before they packed it up for the traditional grad student book riot- and ran across something a bit peculiar. Nestled between the welcoming booths belonging to Pearson, Sage, Harvard University Press, and so forth was a small table covered in jewelry and staffed by a woman whose wrinkled skin made her ancient wisdom almost palpable. On her table also rested a placard, lettered in the traditional ASA font and style, which read: “Navajo Jewlery.”

I think I speak for us all when I remark: huh?

As a side note: Is this sort of thing a regular feature at the meetings and I've just never noticed?

it’s nine o’clock: do you know what your citations say?

Folks with an interest in the sociology of science and knowledge may have noticed this little gem that appeared in BMJ. It’s an article by Steven Greenberg titled, “How citation distortions create unfounded authority: analysis of a citation network.” The abstract, in somewhat abridged form, is nothing if not intriguing:
Continue reading “it’s nine o’clock: do you know what your citations say?”

campaign finance reform never looked so good.

So while cruising the old interwebs recently I ran across an exciting new political website. I refer, of course, to SarahPAC, the political action committee of Sarah Palin. Yes, that Sarah Palin. Feel free to flinch. In any case, it more or less looks like the typical PAC page except for one little thing. Now, in order to see what I mean, first look at this screenshot from SarahPAC:
Continue reading “campaign finance reform never looked so good.”