get a theory, would ya?

I’m currently in midst of writing reviews for 21 NSF proposals (which need to all be filed by 5:00 tomorrow before I head to the airport to fly out to Washington for the Sociology Panel…argh). Having read most all of them at this point, I can make a couple of recommendations to future writers of NSF grants, but I’ll limit myself to just one in this post. This same recommendation flows just as much from my experience editing the journal Mobilization and from watching innumerable job talks over the last decade. That advice is: get a theory.

The biggest problem with the vast majority of these grant proposals is that it is not apparent that many of the authors have a theoretical project at all, or if they even know Continue reading “get a theory, would ya?”

gettin’ old

My parents are just hitting that time when they are getting too old to do some stuff, and we are about to begin some difficult negotiations over what they should give up doing and when. Driving is an especially sore point, since they live in the suburbs, where the nearest bus stop is a relatively long walk away. An even bigger hurdle to public transit is that they have never used it, and now that they get disoriented on occasion, it is probably past the time when they can learn.

That said, other than occasional confusion and some typical hearing and vision loss, they are perfectly fine staying in their home and taking care of themselves. I want to provide some support for them to stay there as long as they can, such as hiring someone to clean the house, maybe take them grocery shopping and to the bank, and find a driving alternative for them, like perhaps a taxi service that is senior friendly (for example, where they might get the same driver time and again).

My folks live in the Bay Area, so I am thinking there will be more services there than other, less populous, places. However, after doing some web research, I have discovered that the easy-to-locate services are for homebound seniors with big health needs. Fair enough, but any ideas where/how I can find a business that caters to more able seniors, as opposed to a social services model for those in the most need? Does such a business even exist, or am I stuck with hiring various cleaners/errand-runners/drivers on my own?

academic etiquette now that there’s that wiki

Departments that bring in assistant professor candidates and then make them find out they didn’t get the job from the wiki, rather than notifying them promptly themselves, are the academic-institutional equivalents of people who dump their significant others by leaving a voicemail. Continue reading “academic etiquette now that there’s that wiki”

asa: a lobbying organization?

I just got the new issue of Footnotes. It fit in well with my attempt to look busy but avoid doing my immediate work. Two pieces were what I would consider “lobbying” or “position-taking” on the part of the organization (excluding a South African Scholar from the US and a letter of protest to the ASA Israel Boycott resolution). And I began to wonder what the implications of this kind of position-taking is for our discipline. My intuition is that it weakens our position both in public policy arenas and in the academy more generally. But rather than make arguments about it, I wonder if anyone has actually looked into this. Anyone out there know of some kind of work done on this questions (it doesn’t have to be about sociology, just organizations in general).

But now to my own uninformed mind. Thinking about the ASA I can’t help but wonder about PAA by contrast. As far as I can tell, PAA takes the approach that it is an information clearinghouse. Want to know something about demographic trends? Ask PAA. They’ll tell you (or tell you about someone who can tell you about it). ASA’s approach, by contrast, is to generate policy statements. Often on issues that no one has asked about. Continue reading “asa: a lobbying organization?”

querying quants (a triptych)


“I had dinner last night with someone who self describes as a ‘quant jock.’ Is that a familiar phrase to you?”

“Yeah, it gets used a lot at the Kennedy School.”

“So, I understand what it is to be a ‘quant’ – both in finance and in social science – but what’s a ‘quant jock’?”

“It just refers to someones who’s really good at quantitative methods, but I’ve never heard anyone use it to refer to themselves.”

“So, is Jeremy Freese a quant jock?” Continue reading “querying quants (a triptych)”

why does college cost so much?

The cost of higher education has far outstripped the cost of living. In the late 1960s, my tuition at an elite private school was $2400 a year, the equivalent of $12,381 in today’s dollars. Tuition today at that same elite school is $33,000. (Room & board is extra.) I’ve read reports that say that on a percentage basis, the cost of public colleges and universities has risen even faster.

At the same time, financial aid is down. Continue reading “why does college cost so much?”